Safe Environment

Report Sexual Abuse

What does abuse look like?

What to do if a child discloses abuse to you:

If a child discloses abuse to you, DO NOT ask the child any questions; it is your job to listen, not to investigate.  Instead, you should:

  1. Write down the exact words the child used in the disclosure and during your interactions. The words the child uses are significant, therefore accuracy is very important.
  2. Make certain that your body language is telling the child that you hear and believe him/her.
  3. Thank the child for having the courage to report to you. The child needs to know that disclosing to you is the right thing to do. Some things to say are “Thank you”, “I Believe you”, “We will get you some help to deal with this”, or “I am going to just listen if you need to talk”.
  4. Inform the child that you are going to share this information with persons who can help him/her.
  5. Do not leave the child alone or unattended.
  6. Immediately report the disclosure of abuse to the authorities or call 911 if the child is in imminent danger.

Where to report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation

All reports of abuse should always be made to your local law enforcement (or 911 if an emergency), child protection (877) 244-0864, or the state’s attorney office  for the county the victim resides or is present. For abuse or related misconduct involving clergy, religious, or a layperson representing the diocese, please do the following in addition to reporting abuse to authorities:

  • Report sexual abuse or related misconduct by a priest, deacon, religious, or lay person representing the diocese, to the Chancellor at (605) 988-3704, Victims Assistance Coordinator (800) 700-7867, or the Safe Environment Office (605) 988-3722.
  • Report sexual abuse or related misconduct by a Catholic bishop to the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting (CBAR) service online at or call (800) 276-1562. To make a report about any bishop within the states of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota (Provence of Saint Cloud and Minneapolis), including a deceased bishop, you may contact attorney Thomas L. Johnson, volunteer ombudsperson for the Archdiocese. Johnson may be reached directly at 612-632-3207 or via email at

Provide the following information when you make your report:

  • The victim’s name, address, date, and place of birth
  • The name and address of the child’s parents, guardian, custodian or responsible persons.
  • Date of the report
  • Suspected or proven instances of abuse or neglect

What happens next

Upon receiving a report, the state’s attorney or law enforcement officer will notify the Department of Social Services (DSS) who will conduct any investigations.  All clergy, employees, and volunteers carrying out ministry on behalf of the Church, who may be familiar with the circumstances of the suspected abuse, is expected to cooperate with any investigation by law enforcement authorities.

Reporting Bishop Abuse

To report sexual abuse or related misconduct by a Catholic bishop, we encourage you to first contact law enforcement.  To report such abuse or misconduct to the Church, you should contact the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting (CBAR) service. Individuals may go to in order to make a report in English or Spanish. Reports are also accepted via 800-276-1562 in both languages. Find out more about CBAR, as well as other ways to report abuse or misconduct by a bishop, here.

Relevant Links

References: Children’s Inn of South Dakota , SD DSS, and SDCL Chapters 26-8A and 22-46.