You have reached a results page in our Online Help Center GetHelp.StopItNow.org. Our Online Help Center is an interactive tool to get customized information and resources about preventing child sexual abuse. If you are worried about possible abuse, click on our Online Help Center to get the answers you need and the tools to help you cope.

  • About Investigations

    Who participates in the investigation?
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  • Adults Who Have Sexually Offended or Feel At-Risk Need Very Specialized Help

    Sex offender treatment is different than other therapies for adults.


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  • Advantages of Coming Forward if You Have Abused Someone

    “I was in a lot of pain... My big concern was that nobody knew what I did. I didn't want anybody to know I was a pedophile. I thought, "That's the bottom of the totem pole," not realizing that the only way I was NOT going to be a pedophile for life was to get help and to learn to change myself. “ – Neil’s Story, Stop It Now! Minnesota


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  • Behaviors to Watch Out for When Adults are with Children

    We all have personal likes and things that make us uncomfortable. “Personal space” is the private area of control inside an imaginary line or boundary that defines each person as separate. Ideally, that boundary helps us stay in charge of our own personal space. It helps keep out the things that make us uncomfortable - unsafe and unwanted feelings, words, images, and physical contact. Solid social rules strengthen the boundary. Behaviors that routinely disrespect or ignore boundaries make children vulnerable to abuse.


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  • Can a Child Recover from the Effects of Sexual Abuse?

    Yes, with help and understanding, children can heal


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  • Can I Get Arrested for Just Having Thoughts?

    Do I need help if I haven't crossed the line?

    Many people wish they had sought help before they crossed the line and sexually abused a child. Through research we've learned that many adults who sexually abused a child wanted to stop but didn't know how. If you have sexually abused child, it is not too late to get help. If you haven't sexually abused a child but are concerned you might, ask for help now! You can call the Stop It Now! Helpline (1.888.PREVENT) to talk with understanding people who can help.


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  • Can I Still Get in Trouble if I'm the Safe Adult?

    Risk of being perceived as a negligent or "unfit"  parent

    • Take steps immediately when you realize a child is at risk or has been harmed.
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  • Child Pornography: Getting Help to Stop

    The Internet makes it easy to cross the line.


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  • Clearing Up Common Misunderstandings

    Child sexual abuse can be a very confusing topic, both to adults and to children. Below are six clarifications of common misunderstandings many adults have articulated on our Helpline while attempting to make sense out of confusing situations.


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  • Consequences for Adults who have Abused a Child

     

    Not knowing what might happen next makes it hard to reach out for help

    Sometimes people who have been sexual with children are afraid to reach out for help because they don't know what might happen to them or their family. Child sexual abuse is a crime and must be dealt with through the child protection and criminal justice systems. Those who have offended can learn about what to expect from these authorities by speaking confidentially with an attorney.
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  • Consequences for Minors: Could My Child be Arrested?

    Can a child be charged criminally for sexual behavior?

    Children can be legally charged for criminal sexual conduct. The laws in each state vary, and depending on the severity of the activity, the behavior could fall under the legal definitions of abuse and a child could be charged. If you are uncertain about whether a child’s sexual behavior could be considered criminal, learn the statutes by consulting your Attorney General’s office or get a sex-specific evaluation from a specialist.
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  • Custody Cases Involving Child Sexual Abuse

    Proving child sexual abuse in family court can be difficult

    When child custody cases involve suspected or confirmed situations of sexual abuse of the children the family court experience can evolve into a complicated and often painful experience for everyone involved. In some cases children can be immediately protected by court orders of separation, restraining orders, or supervised visitation. In other cases it is not straightforward and the process of protecting a child can be painfully slow and drawn out.


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  • Defining Child Pornography

    Danger of the Internet

    People can get in trouble before they even realize it. When it is so easy to access sexually explicit materials on the Internet, users can find themselves acting on curiosities they didn’t have before. Some people find themselves losing control over their use of pornography, for example by spending more and more time viewing it and, for some, looking for new and different types of pornography, including images of children. Some people accidentally find sexual images of children and are curious or aroused by them.
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  • Defining Child Sexual Abuse

    Touching and Non-Touching Behaviors


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  • Do 'Victims' Become 'Perpetrators'?

    No, most children who have been sexually abused do NOT go on to sexually abuse children

    Just as there is no such thing as a typical “sex offender,” there is no such thing as a typical “victim.” How children process the experience of having been sexually abused varies widely and depends on many things, including whether they receive protection, acknowledgement and the help they need to address the harm done to them.


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  • Finding Support for Yourself after Abuse is Disclosed

    Take care of yourself with these 5 actions

    Learning that a child has been abused or has offended is a time of trauma for protective parents and caregivers who have specific needs of their own. Often the needs of the protective parent are neglected by other supportive adults and professionals. It is a time when they can feel alone and isolated. It’s important to get support for yourself to help you cope with the emotions, challenges and decisions you are facing. The better you are able to cope, the stronger your ability to provide effective parenting for your child.


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  • For Survivors Worried about the Safety of Others

    "I am a survivor worried about a situation where a child may be at risk."

    You have valuable instincts that can help prevent abuse

    If you are concerned about the safety of a child, we encourage you to trust your gut feelings. Sometimes vague feelings of discomfort or the sense that “something just isn’t right” can be an indication that something less visible is occurring in the background. Please take time to explore the situation further.
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  • Having Sexual Thoughts or Fantasies about Children Can Be a Warning Sign

    Many people who sexually abuse children had sexual thoughts or fantasies about children before they ever acted on those thoughts and feelings. And, many people who have sexual thoughts or fantasies about children never act on those thoughts or feelings. Sexual thoughts or fantasies can be a warning sign to pay attention to, particularly if the thoughts are persistent.


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  • Healing and Recovery for Adults Abused as Children

    It’s never too late to begin the process of recovery

    Adults who have had experiences of sexual abuse as children need and deserve a chance to speak about their experiences with those who understand and can help. Survivors of child sexual abuse can also play a critical role in the prevention of further abuse to other children. If you or someone you love needs support to recover, now is the time to reach out for help.


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  • Help for Adults Concerned About Their Own Thoughts or Behaviors

    Now is the time to seek help.

    If you know someone who is having sexual thoughts about children or who feels sexually aroused by a child’s presence, this is the time to seek help. It is important to that they  take steps now to keep themselves from being sexual in the presence of a child. 
    With specialized treatment, a person who accepts accountability for their thoughts and behaviors can learn to make changes to keep themselves and children safe.


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  • Help for Adults to Stop Abusing

    You can stop

    Treatment for sexual behavior problems is available. If you are motivated to stop abusive behaviors and to get specialized treatment, you can learn to change their behaviors and to live a healthy, productive life. Having the support and "tough love" of friends and families can also help you through the process of completing treatment and living an abuse-free life.


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  • Help for Children and Teens Who Show Concerning Behaviors

    Get a professional opinion.


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  • Helping a Child Manage Unsafe Sexual Behavior

    Not all inappropriate sexual behavior indicates a significant problem.


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  • Helping an Adult Stay Safe from Offending

    If you’re not really sure they have a problem:

    • Letting someone know that their worrisome behaviors are not invisible to others can be an effective measure in helping an adult stay safe from crossing the line with a child. Some adults do not understand fully what behavior is appropriate with children and benefit from honest conversations with concerned adults.
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  • How Can I Better Understand What My Child is Going Through?

    When trying to understand what your child is going through, the most important thing is to realize just how complicated it is for children to talk about the abuse.  There are many reasons children are reluctant or unable to tell about sexual abuse. Here are some important things to remember about a child who is telling or attempting to tell.


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  • How Can I Find Confidential Help?

    Stop It Now! has a confidential toll-free Helpline (1.888.PREVENT).

    If you are concerned about your sexualized thoughts or behaviors towards children, you can call the Stop It Now! confidential, toll-free Helpline at 1.888.PREVENT (1.888.773.8368).  No caller ID is used on this line. Check hours.


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  • How Can I Tell if My Child Has Been Sexually Abused?

    Physical signs

    Although most children who have been sexually abused do not have physical symptoms, if your child complains of or has unexplained bruises, redness, bleeding, sores, or milky fluids in or around the genitals, anus or mouth, you need to bring your child to a doctor for a physical exam. If you see physical signs and suspect that your child has been sexually abused you can bring your child for a Sexual Assault Nurse Exam (SANE) at a local medical facility where they can be examined and evidence may possibly be collected as evidence.
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  • How Could I Have Missed It?

    Over 90% of the time, children are sexually abused by someone they know trust or love.

    Even when we know and believe this statistic as a fact, it can be hard to believe that someone we know and love could also be sexually inappropriate or sexually abuse a child. It can be hard to reconcile the picture in our mind of those who sexually abuse children with someone we know who has a good job, a nice family, and seems to have a lot going for them. The person may have all these characteristics, yet behave inappropriately with children.


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  • How does Community Notification and the Sex Offender Registry Work?

    The registries don’t keep children safe, protective adults do.

    The state by state sex offender registries were meant to assist law enforcement and probation and parole officers in the supervision of those who have been convicted of sex crimes not to create conditions of greater danger to community members. Unfortunately, many well-intended laws designed to prevent sexual violence do not show any evidence of effectiveness - and may have unintended negative consequences. Residency restrictions and community notification laws may even be undermining community safety.
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  • How Does Therapy Help a Child?

    A trained therapist can help your child express their feelings. Children don’t always feel free to express how they’re feeling to a parent or other adult they care about. In fact, the love they feel towards these adults makes children want to protect them. They’re scared that bringing up difficult subjects and feelings will cause pain and upset to the adults they’re closest to.


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  • How Might a Report Impact the Child, the Person who has Abused, and the Whole Family?

    For the person who has been victimized:

    Whatever is revealed by a child who has been victimized, reassure them that you love them and that you are committed to helping them. Recognize that many children are not able to tell about what happened, or may take back or “recant” their disclosure of abuse when questioned by authorities or other adults. Children will look to adults for reassurance that they will be all right, especially if they feel that the world around them is in chaos. Keep reminding yourself that healing for everyone is possible.


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  • How People Use the Internet to Sexually Exploit Children and Teens

    What is child pornography?

    Both male and female adults and some young people may use the Internet and other new technologies to harm children. Some do this by viewing, producing or distributing photographs and video images on the internet of children naked, in sexual poses and/or being sexually abused – this is called child pornography. We do not yet have enough research to understand how likely it is that someone who has looked at abusive images of children, may also go on to sexually abuse a child directly.
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  • How Should I Respond to the Child?

    Every situation is unique. Reacting to a child’s disclosure of sexual abuse with the right amount of appropriateness, care and sensitivity is not easy. No one ever does it perfectly. And if, in addition, the person committing the abuse is someone we love, the sense of betrayal makes it more complex. Our allegiances to those we care about can seem not only tested, but divided. But healing is possible for everyone involved.


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  • How to Ask for Help When You are Troubled by Your Thoughts about Children

    Asking for help breaks the isolation

    The reasons why some adults think of being sexual with a child are complex and specific to that adult. There is no single reason why this happens, but there is help. Most adults who have these disturbing thoughts or urges have great difficulty controlling them on their own. Sexual thoughts about children is a danger sign which may indicate that you need to work through childhood experiences of abuse or trauma – perhaps experiences you may not even recall.
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  • How to File

    File a report with Child Protective Services?

    If the suspected abuse is taking place within a family, or between a child and another person who is in a caretaking role to the child, such as a teacher or day care provider, you should file a report with Child Protective Services.

    File a report with the police?

    If you suspect sexual abuse between a child and someone outside of the family who is not in a caretaking role, contact the local police department or law enforcement authority closest to the location where the abuse occurred.


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  • How to Prepare for a Complex Conversation

    Trust your gut

    • If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, you might be tempted just to ignore it. Talking about sex is never easy. Talking about sexual abuse is even harder, especially when you care about the people involved. But your gut feeling is a reaction to something real that you have seen or heard. Many people have shared with us that in hindsight they wished that they had followed up on an intuition or pursued a concern they had.
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  • How to Recognize Concerning Behavior Between Children

    You can find help to determine if sexual play between children is a problem. When presented with a sexual behavior in a child, it is not always obvious whether or not the behavior is anything to be concerned about. Knowing what is developmentally expected is the first place to start. Understanding children’s typical sexual development, knowledge, and behavior is necessary to accurately identify sexual behavior problems in children. When there is a concern it is helpful to learn more about the hallmarks of problematic sexual behavior.
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  • I'm Afraid About What Could Happen if I File a Report

    Sometimes the decision to file is not easy.

    It’s scary to think that making a phone call could change our lives. We can’t know beforehand what will happen after we file. We don’t know if our report will lead to a child’s getting protection or possibly make things difficult for the child. Sometimes the fear of family disruption or family break-up is so great that we’re tempted to ignore signs of abuse so that we don’t have to face filing a report. Here are three reasons why it can feel difficult to take action:


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  • Is the Child Telling Me the Truth?

    It’s hard to believe

    Although it is sometimes hard to believe that someone we know or love is capable of sexually harming a child, we must remember that children rarely lie about sexual abuse. It is highly unlikely that a child would deliberately make false accusations about adult-like sexual behavior.


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  • Is There Help for Children with Sexual Behavior Problems?

    Yes. There is a range of help for children whose sexual behaviors are concerning. The most important thing is to act, and act quickly. There are a lot of reasons why a child may be acting out sexually, and a therapist who specializes in children’s sexual behaviors will address all aspects of a child’s behavior, including their sexual behavior. They will work with you to develop a specialized treatment plan to address your child’s behavior.


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  • Mistaken Beliefs that Block Awareness

    What stops us from seeing abuse?

    It’s very disturbing to imagine that someone you know could be sexually harming a child. Without certain proof of abuse, it’s so much easier to dismiss such thoughts or to think you’re overreacting. You may also be worried about the possible consequences of taking action, especially if the concern involves someone you or your family depends on for financial, emotional or social support. Looking back, many people wonder how they missed the signs that someone close to them was abusing a child.
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  • Natural Reactions of Parents and Caregivers to Abuse

    For protective adults, a wide range of emotional reactions are possible

    Following a disclosure, reactions can vary greatly for the non-offending trusted adult. Sometimes it is difficult to share these feelings with others.


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  • New Laws Affecting Teens Who Offend

    Can a child be charged criminally for sexual behavior?

    Children can be legally charged for criminal sexual conduct. The laws in each state vary, but in some cases children can be charged criminally for sexual behaviors with other children. Depending on the severity of the activity, the behavior could fall under the legal definitions of abuse and a child could be charged.
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  • Non Physical Contact Behaviors

    Child sexual abuse can also include behaviors that do not involve touching or physical contact.  These behaviors can be just as upsetting and emotionally harmful to a child as some touching behaviors. Non-touching behaviors that are considered to be child sexual abuse include:


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  • Overcoming Practical Concerns that Keep Us from Speaking Up

    If you are thinking of speaking up about a possible situation of child sexual abuse, you may face practical concerns of how this will impact your family.  Here are answers to some common questions people face when deciding how to take action on concerning behaviors.


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  • Possible Reactions of Non-offending Parents and Caring Adults

    Following a disclosure, reactions can vary greatly for non-offending parents and other protective adults. You may feel surprised by some of your thoughts and feelings and might find it difficult to share them with others. Below are some of the feelings that many parents and caring adults experience after receiving a disclosure of sexual abuse from a child.


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  • Preparing for Internet Safety

    Adults and children will take risks online.

    The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate and function in our day-to-day lives exposing us all to an unimagined volume of ideas and possibilities. We are only beginning to understand the full impact that such expanded access to images and information is having on adults and children.


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  • Re-establishing Safety in Your Family

    Many members of the household may feel that trust has been betrayed

    • Family members discovering that sexual abuse has occurred at home may have a sense that their home is not what they thought it was – a safe place for everyone. Or perhaps a general feeling of loss that their whole world is not what they thought it was. This can be an extremely difficult time for every family member, and things may feel like they are going to get worse before they get better.
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  • Safety and Help for Children and Teens Who Have Abused

    Children and teens who abuse are not just smaller versions of adults who abuse.


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  • Safety Planning for an Adult Worried about Their Own Sexual Thoughts or Feelings Towards Children

    Get help before you act on your sexual thoughts or feelings towards children.

    Even though it may be hard to tell someone you are having sexual thoughts or feelings towards children, it will be much harder to get help after you have harmed a child. Find someone you can talk with about your feelings. Using this website or calling the Stop It Now! Helpline (1.888.PREVENT) are two good resources for finding the help you may need.


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  • Safety Planning within Faith-Based Communities

    Faith communities offer children wonderful opportunities to develop spiritually and to be part of a larger, caring community.  Close caring relationships with adults are an important protective factor for children.  Families who are struggling often particularly need the friendship and informal mentoring opportunities provided by faith communities. Unfortunately, as in all organizations where adults and older youth interact with children, faith communities can provide opportunities for inappropriate sexual behaviors towards children.


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  • Signs a Child or Adolescent May Be At-Risk to Harm Another Child

    More than a third of all sexual abuse of children is committed by someone under the age of 18. Children, particularly younger children, may take part in inappropriate interactions without understanding how it might be hurtful to others. For this reason, it may be more helpful to talk about a child’s sexually “harmful” behavior rather than sexually “abusive” behavior.


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  • Signs an Adult May Be At-Risk to Harm a Child

    Someone you care about may be acting in ways that worry or confuse you. The behaviors below may indicate a possible risk of sexual abuse to a child, but may also be a way for this adult to ask for help. Many people with sexual behavior problems believe that others already suspect and often wish someone would ask what’s going on or advise them where to call to get help. Remember, you can start a conversation by pointing out harmful impacts on a child without accusing someone of abusive intentions.


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  • Sometimes Disturbing or Intrusive Thoughts about Children Come First

    Thoughts come before action

    Many people who sexually abuse children had sexual thoughts or fantasies about children before they ever acted.. And, many people who have sexual thoughts or fantasies about children never act on those thoughts or feelings. Sexual thoughts or fantasies about children are not illegal, but can be a warning sign to pay attention to, particularly if the thoughts are persistent.
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  • Talking to Kids about Preventing Sexual Abuse

    Talking to kids can assist in prevention.

    What do I tell my kids?

    Many parents struggle with this question.  As your children grow and mature, each family must decide what works for the culture of their particular household. What is most important for kids to understand is that abuse is never a child’s fault, it is not likely to be a “stranger,” and that people who have these kinds of problems need help from grownups to stop.


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  • Talking with a Child or Teen Who Has Abused

    Intervening now is key

    It is crucial to address sexually harmful behaviors in youth promptly, especially as they approach an age at which they can be held legally accountable for their actions. The stakes only get higher if you wait. Act now.


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  • Talking with a Child or Teen Who May Be At-Risk to Abuse Another Child

    Intervening early is key

    It is crucial to address concerns for youth at-risk to sexually abuse, especially as they approach an age at which they can be held legally accountable for their actions. The stakes only get higher if you wait. Act now.


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  • Talking with an Adult Who Has Already Abused

    Decide first if it is safe for you to have a conversation.

    When your safety is at risk, it is simply not an option to speak directly with the person whom you know or suspect has abused a child, particularly in situations of domestic violence. In such instances it’s advisable to speak with a domestic violence advocate  and/or to report the abuse directly to the authorities.


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  • Talking with an Adult Who May be at Risk to Abuse

    Decide first if it is safe for you to have a conversation.

    When your safety is at risk, it is simply not an option to speak directly with the person whom you know or suspect has abused a child, particularly in situations of domestic violence. In such instances it’s advisable to speak with a domestic violence advocate [link to national Domestic Violence Hotline] and/or to report the abuse directly to the authorities.


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  • Ten Things to Remember When You Talk to Kids about Sexuality

    Talking to your child or teen about sex and sexuality gets easier the more you practice.

    The more a child knows about his/her own sexuality the less he/she will need to rely on peers or other adults who may take advantage of that child’s lack of information. Children who understand their bodies and their sexual feelings may feel more confident about this part of themselves and may be less likely to be confused or manipulated regarding inappropriate sexual touch.


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  • The Mandated Reporter's Decision to File

    "What’s my responsibility as a mandated reporter?"

    • Professionals who work with families and children are, in most states, legally required to report suspected cases of child abuse to the authorities. If you have any questions about whether or not you are a mandated reporter in your state, please consult with your supervisor or the statutes for mandated reporting in your state. You can review the statutes at the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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  • The Power of Your Loving Support

    There is no doubt that loving support is key to helping a child heal from sexual abuse or overcome a sexual behavior problem. But sometimes we can feel loving without knowing what loving steps we can take to help our children. As a parent or caretaker, here are some loving actions you can take to foster healing and recovery.


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  • Touching Behaviors

    Child sexual abuse includes the following touching behaviors.

    • Touching a child's genitals (penis, testicles, vulva, breasts, or anus) for sexual pleasure or to meet the needs of the older child or adult.
    • Making a child touch someone else's genitals, or playing sexual ("pants-down") games.
    • Putting objects or body parts (like fingers, tongue or a penis) inside the vulva or vagina, in the mouth, or in the anus of a child for sexual pleasure or to meet the needs of the older child or adult.

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  • Twelve Questions about Your Behavior Only You Can Answer

    Do you need help?

    If you are wondering about your own sexual thoughts and behaviors toward children, we encourage you to answer these questions honestly. They are designed to help you decide whether you may need help. Take a few minutes to ask yourself the following twelve questions.

    If you answer ‘yes’ to more than one question, we encourage you to seek help from a professional. You can also call the Stop It Now! Helpline for more information at 1.888.PREVENT.


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  • Understanding What Makes Kids Vulnerable to Being Sexually Abused

    Children are by nature vulnerable to those more powerful than they are.


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  • Warning Signs a Young Person May Be a Target of Online Sexual Abuse

    How can we prevent our children from being sexually abused online?

    We already know how difficult it is for children to talk about being sexually abused, whether by a man or woman or by another child. When sexually abusive behavior occurs online, some children may not even realize they are being exploited; and those who do may not tell, especially if they realize they have broken a safety rule or believe their Internet privileges may be taken away.
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  • Warning Signs in Children (Behavioral and Physical)

    Behavioral warning signs of possible child sexual abuse

    Any one sign doesn't mean the child was abused, but the presence of several suggests you begin asking questions and consider seeking help.

    Keep in mind that some of these signs can emerge at other times of stress such as:


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  • Warning Signs of Someone's Dangerous or Illegal Online Activity

    Someone you know may feel scared or unable to ask for help.

    It is important that we are able to recognize the warning signs that someone we know may be using the new technologies inappropriately and to assist them in seeking help. Although all members of the family can be affected, it is often an adult partner who suffers the greatest impact. However, it is not only adults who may harm children via the internet. Some young people use the new technologies to harm other children.
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  • Warning Signs that You May Need Help with Troubling Online Activity

    Did you get a “wake-up call”?

    Maybe you are looking for help now because you accessed something online that scared you. Perhaps something that happened recently is a “wake-up call” that your online activity is getting out of control. You may have reached a limit in your ability to tolerate the shame or stress of leading a “double life”. Maybe someone in your life found the courage to let you know they are concerned about what you do online.
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  • What Can I Do when the System Seems Unable to Protect my Child?

    The system is imperfect. But don’t give up.


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  • What Could Happen to Me If I've Crossed the Line?

    Not knowing what might happen to you makes it hard to ask for help.

    You may feel afraid to reach out for help because you don't know what might happen to you or your family if you do. The fact is, child sexual abuse is a crime and must be dealt with through the child protection and criminal justice systems. You can learn about what to expect from these authorities by speaking confidentially with an attorney. You can also ask questions to a sex-specific therapist who specializes in working with adults who have acted sexually towards a child.
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  • What if I Am Not Sure?

    "I have mixed feelings about filing."

    More often, concerns lie in a “gray area” of vague uneasiness, sketchy details or uncertainty about what is actually happening. The decision to file a report regarding child abuse of any kind is almost always complicated by the reporter’s relationship to the child and family. If you are feeling torn about making your concerns known to Child Protective Services or law enforcement, it may be helpful to consider what may happen if this step is not[ital] taken.
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  • What is Age-Appropriate?

    It can be hard to acknowledge that all of us, even children, are sexual beings, have sexual feelings and are curious about sex and sexuality. Children’s curiosity can lead to exploring their own and each other’s body parts by looking and touching. They may peek when family members are in the bathroom or changing clothes or try to listen outside the bedroom. They may look at magazines, books, videos, and on the internet.


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  • What is Child Protective Services?

    Child Protective Services protects children from caregivers who may be harming them

    Child Protective Services (CPS) is a branch of your state’s social services department that is responsible for the assessment, investigation and intervention regarding cases of child abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse. In all of its procedures, CPS must follow state and federal laws. CPS typically takes cases where a child has been abused or is believed to be at risk of abuse by someone who has care giving responsibilities for that child.


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  • What Keeps Us from Talking about Sexual Abuse

    There are many reasons why it’s difficult to speak about child sexual abuse, especially as it affects our own lives or the lives of those we care about. In most societies child sexual abuse is a taboo topic, making it difficult for most people to talk about it openly. Other obstacles include doubting our own perceptions, being afraid to accuse someone falsely, and being unable or unwilling to go through the pain that can stem from acknowledging that someone we care about is being abused or is abusing.


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  • What Kind of Therapist Should My Child See?

    Find a specialist you are comfortable with

    Instead of bringing your child to a general child therapist, look for a professional therapist or counselor who works primarily with children who have been sexually abused, and who has specialized training and experience treating sexually abused children. There are national and local organizations that can help you find therapists for children, as well as crisis centers and child advocacy programs.


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  • What Might Happen after a Report is Filed?

    Usually the identity of the person who filed the report remains confidential. Typically CPS and/or police do not share information with anybody about the progress of an investigation – even with a protective parent. This can feel frustrating especially if the process is moving slowly.


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  • What Might the Person Who Has Offended Be Thinking or Feeling after a Disclosure?

    It is very hard to predict how the person who has abused will respond. Once the adult or youth who has been harmful is aware that this behavior has been exposed, they may experience a number of different reactions. These reactions can range from fear and remorse to outright denial. It usually important to consider the response of this individual as he/she is likely to be someone whom the victimized child (and his/her parents) knows and trusts.


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  • What Puts Someone At-Risk to Sexually Abuse Children?

    It can be hard to understand what causes someone to sexually abuse a child. Just as there is no such thing as a “typical sex offender”, there is no one pathway to becoming someone who sexually abuses children.


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  • What Should I Do After A Child Tells?

    When a child discloses sexual abuse, here are some important things that the child will need you to do:
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  • What Teachers and Child Care Providers Can Do to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

    Protecting Children from Sexual Harm:
    What Teachers and Child Care Providers Need to Know

    We all know the importance of making schools and daycare setting places where children feel and are safe.  Here are some steps that teachers and child care professionals can take to help protect children and prevent sexual harm.


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  • What You Can Do Before a Child is Harmed

    Don’t wait.

    If you are concerned about keeping your child safe from sexual abuse, now is the time to create a safer environment for everyone in your family. Prevention means promoting healthy behaviors rather than waiting to punish violations.


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  • When Children Abuse Other Children

    Kids can be sexually abused by other kids

    People are often surprised to learn that, in fact, over a third of all sexual abuse of children is committed by someone under the age of 18. Most of us are clear that sexual behaviors between adults and children are illegal and harmful. It can be more difficult to recognize and respond when sexual behaviors happen between children or between older youth and children. It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between kids engaging in mutual sexual exploration and sexual behaviors between children that are more concerning.


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  • When Must a Therapist File a Report?

    Not everything you share with a therapist can be kept confidential.

    What an individual tells his or her therapist is confidential; however, there are limitations to the confidentiality between a therapist and a client.  Laws in all 50 states require a therapist to contact authorities if a patient is a danger to him/herself, to others, and/or if the therapist suspects that a known child is being abused. These reporting laws, as they are applied in your state, are explained to all adults and to guardians of children who seek professional counseling for any reason.
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  • When to File and Who to Call

    "Should I wait until I’m sure before I file a report?" 

    • In most situations you do not need to wait to have “evidence” of child abuse to file a report to child protective services of police. However, it is always best when there is some symptom, behavior or conversation that you can identify or describe to a child protection screener or police officer when making the report.
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  • When You Love Them Both

    Feeling caught in a loyalty bind

    If you’re the non-offending parent of a child who has been abused by a sibling or by the other parent, you can find yourself caught in a painful bind. As a loving parent, you want to do everything in your power to protect the abused child, keep them safe, comfort them, and help them to heal. At the same time, especially if you’ve had a warm or loving relationship with the person who abused before the abuse was exposed, you may find that your feelings of affection and concern don’t simply vanish.
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  • Who is Required to Report?

    Anyone may file a report

    • In all states any person concerned for the welfare or safety of a child can voluntarily file a report. You do not have to be in a professional relationship with a family to contact CPS or police on behalf of a child. Remarkably, some very courageous children and teens have also contacted the authorities directly regarding their own or a sibling’s victimization.

     Most professionals who work with families and children are mandated

    • All states require certain professionals or institutions to report suspected child abuse.
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  • Why a Child May Sexually Abuse Another Child

    There are many possibilities for what might cause inappropriate sexual behavior of a child to another. People are often surprised to learn that, in fact, over a third of all sexual abuse of children is committed by someone under the age of 18 who usually is a family member. Children may engage in sexually harmful interactions without knowing or understanding that they are being inappropriate, or that they are hurting another child.

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  • Why Permission from a Child or Underage Teen Doesn't Count

    The law indicates who can consent to sex and who cannot.

    The law recognizes that children are developmentally not able to make decisions about some things, including when to engage in sexual behaviors. Laws vary by state, but a common age of consent is 16. Engaging in sexual behaviors with someone under the age of consent is illegal and will be treated as criminal sexual conduct.


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  • Why Sexuality Education is an Important Part of a Safety Plan

    All children are curious about sex. The more children know about their own sexuality, the less likely it is that others will take advantage of them because of their lack of knowledge.

    Having ongoing conversations with children and teens about their own developing sexuality is an important part of sexual abuse prevention. Early messages that sex and sexuality are shameful or not to be discussed can lead to children keeping secrets about sexual touching.

    Here are some key reasons why healthy sexuality education should be an important part of your safety plan:


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  • Why Therapy is So Important for a Child Who Has Been Abused

    "Does my child really have to talk to someone in order to get better?"

    The effects of child sexual abuse are complex and vary from child to child

    For most children who have been abused, getting help from a specialized professional with a background in working with children who have been sexually abused can be very helpful. Certainly the specific situation of abuse must be considered in determining the urgency of finding a professional: was it a close family member or friend; was it ongoing; how has it affected the child’s emotional or physical health.
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  • Why Would an Adult Abuse a Child?

    There is no such thing as a “typical sex offender”.

    It can be hard to understand how seemingly ordinary people can have sexual thoughts or behaviors towards children. There is also no usual “pathway” to becoming someone who sexually abuses children. People who sexually abuse children can be male or female, young or old, attractive or not, successful or struggling to get by. The most common similarity they share is having experienced abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional) earlier in life.


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