When You’re Troubled by Warning Signs in an Adult or Child…

1. Learn the warning signs that can indicate risk or harm

By learning the warning signs that could indicate child sexual abuse, you can identify possible risks to a child and take preventive action. If you’re not sure if the behaviors that worry you are significant, seek guidance from professionals or organizations with relevant expertise, or talk to other trusted adults who are close to the situation.

Learn more about warning signs.

2. Learn how abuse happens

Most children who are sexually abused, are abused by someone they know and trust. More often abuse is a process and not a single event. Understanding what people who abuse may do to build the trust of a child and the rest of the family can help you to assess your situation. Identifying patterns of risky behavior gives you the chance to intervene before a child is harmed.

Read our guidebook Preventing Child Sexual Abuse to learn more about how abuse happens.

3. Speak up about your concerns

Raise your concerns with other adults if you are seeing warning signs or risky behaviors. Counting on children to recognize and report abuse means waiting until a trauma has occurred before acting protectively. Staying silent, because you don’t have proof, may leave a child exposed to danger. Finding alliesi – other trusted adults or professionals who share your concerns – can help you figure out what you and they can do to address the situation and prevent harm from occurring.

Learn more about taking action before a child is harmed.

4. Consider speaking to the adult you think may be at risk of abusing

If it is safe to do so, speaking directly to the person you suspect may be at risk of abusing a child, can, in some cases, be an important key to prevention. Often an adult concerned about their own behavior feels there is nobody to turn to for help. Sometimes by speaking with the person in a non-accusatory way, that individual may be willing to seek help.

Read our guidebook Let's Talk to learn more about speaking directly to an adult at-risk.

5. Make a safety plan

The most effective sexual abuse prevention happens before a child is harmed. Creating a family safety plani that is clear to everyone and easy to follow is an important preventive step. Children are safer when adults take the time to get the facts about sexual abuse and behaviors that might suggest a problem early on. Everyone benefits when adults choose to share prevention information and speak up as soon as they have a concern—rather than waiting for evidence of harm.

Learn more about making a safety plan.