Tip Sheet: Signs That 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.

Do you have concerns about someone you know in these areas of daily life?


  • Misses or ignores social cues about others’ personal or sexual limits and boundaries?
  • Often has a "special" child friend, maybe a different one from year to year?
  • Spends most of their spare time with children and shows little interest in spending time with someone their own age?
  • Encourages silence and secrets in children?

Sexual Interactions

  • Links sexuality and aggression in language or behavior, e.g. sexualized threats or insults, like “whore” or “slut”?
  • Makes fun of children's body parts, describes children with sexual words like “stud” or “sexy” or talks again and again about the sexual activities of children or teens?
  • Masturbates so often that it gets in the way of important day-to-day activities?
  • Has an interest in sexual fantasies involving children and seems unclear about what's appropriate with children?
  • Looks at child sexual abuse material (CSAM, known in the past as child pornography) or downloads/views Internet pornography and is not willing to show whether children are involved?
  • Asks adult partners to dress or act like a child or teen during sexual activity?

Personal safety/responsibility

  • Has been known to make poor decisions while misusing drugs or alcohol?
  • Justifies behavior, defends poor choices or harmful acts; blames others to refuse responsibility for behaviors?
  • Minimizes hurtful or harmful behaviors when confronted; denies harmfulness of actions or words despite a clear negative impact?

For more information and guidance about starting a conversation with someone who behaves in these ways, please visit our Online Help Center.

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For more information and guidance, please visit our Online Help Center.