How to Recognize It,
What to Do About IT,
and Who to Call for HELP!


Most offenders of sexual abuse are strangers.
NO In most cases of sexual abuse, the offender is someone known and trusted by the child and family. The offender is frequently a relative, neighbor, friend or baby-sitter.
Sexual abuse of children most often occurs in poor neighborhoods and among uneducated people.
NO Offenders come from all walks of life; the wealthy and the poor, employed, married and single, young and old, educated, uneducated, male and female. Offenders and victims are usually of the same race.
Girls are always the victims.
NO Boys are abused as well.
Offenders are always men.
NO Perpetrators can be men or women of any age. Older children or teenagers can also be offenders.
Children imagine sexual experiences and make up stories about them.
NO The temptation is to deny a child's story of sexual abuse; to think that the child's story is exaggeration, misunderstanding, or even fantasy. Believe the child. Children do not imagine sexual experiences unless they have them.
Children seek out sexual activity.
NO Children may imitate adults, but they do not seek Out sexual activity. It is the adult who misinterprets the child. Adults are responsible for their own behavior.
Nice children always allow "loving" relatives and friends to touch them.
NO Children should be taught that their bodies are private and belong to them. They should not feel guilty or be bribed into allowing someone to bother them or to touch them in ways that make them feel bad. We need to let children know that everyone, including every child, has the right to say "NO" to advances, even if the person is a friend or family member.

  • Child tells stories of a sexual nature.
  • Child reports sexual activity.
  • Child has sudden fear of strangers, a relative or sitter.
  • Child suddenly becomes unruly and destructive, shy or withdrawn.
  • Child displays irritability, crankiness, or short-tempered behavior.
  • Child may, act out feelings, run away, skip school, be rebellious.
  • Child needs more reassurances than usual, clinging to parent.
  • Child experiences sleep disturbances such as nightmares, fear of going to bed, wanting light on, waking up during the night, fear of sleeping alone.
  • Bedwetting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Obvious physical conditions such as pain, itching, discharge, swelling, bruises, etc.

  • Believe the child's story. Don't deny the problem or blame the child.
  • Stay calm. Intense emotions will frighten the child. A quiet, unhurried conversation conveys calmness.
  • Never punish the child. Sexual abuse is the fault of the abuser.
  • Assure the child that you still love him/her, regardless of what has happened.
  • Although sexual abuse is a crime, do not take the law into your own hands.
  • Get help immediately!

  • Teach them that not all adults care about children's feelings.
  • Teach them to say "NO" even to adults when frightened or confused by them.
  • Teach them they have the right to privacy of their own bodies.
  • Teach them they have the right to refuse demands for physical closeness if it makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Teach them the difference between good touches and "secret" touches.
  • Teach them against playing alone in isolated places.
  • Teach them to tell a trusted adult if they are touched in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Teach them how to reach you in emergencies.
  • Teach them by going through a practice drill of what they should do if they are in trouble with a perpetrator.
  • Teach them "to tell" especially when someone asks them not to.
  • Teach them more than once.