How to Get Help (if you suspect abuse)
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is defined as the sexual touching or penetration of children. The definition generally includes attempts as well as completed assaults. There are other forms of illegal or unwanted sexual experiences such as exposure, peeping, or sexual harassment in the form of talking in a sexually inappropriate or intimidating way.
Child sexual abuse involves:
- sexual touching of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed, including using an object
- assault by penetration, including rape or penetration of the mouth with an object or part of the body
encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity, including:
sexual acts with someone else making a child strip or masturbate
intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child
not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others
meeting a child following sexual grooming, with the intent of abusing them
taking, making, allowing someone to take, distributing, showing or advertising indecent images of children
paying for the sexual services of a child
encouraging a child into prostitution or pornography
showing a child images of sexual activity, including photographs, videos or via webcams.
What if your child discloses sexual abuse to you?
Do not overreact:
One of my adult children told me the reason he could talk to his father and me about difficult situations was because we didn't "overreact." I remember some of his "difficult situations." I'm glad he remembers we responded calmly. Believe me, inside I was anything but calm. This is vital in instances of sexual abuse disclosures. Our children must feel safe with us or they may shut down. We may not have all the answers, but there are people and organizations that will help us find them.
When we communicate to our children that we love them, will listen to them, and will believe them, we build a sturdy bridge of communication that our children can walk across. We, as parents, want to be the "go-to persons." We won't be if we overreact.
This will not be easy — 90% of violated children were violated by someone they know, trust, and often love. If your child discloses abuse, chances are you will know, trust, and perhaps, love the violator, too. Resist the temptation to deny the unthinkable. Believing can open the door to help and restoration.
Do not ask leading questions:
Should your child disclose abuse to you, do not ask leading questions such as, "Was it Uncle Jack? Did he touch your chest?" Instead ask, "What happened next? And then what happened?" You want to get as much information as you can without making rash judgments or decisions.
Although you may feel paralyzed and devastated, please call one of the hotlines listed on our resource page or your local child protection agency. Trained counselors will help you discern whether abuse has taken place and will gently guide you toward your next step.
Sexual abuse is a crime in all fifty states. If abuse has occurred, it must be reported. Perpetrators need help. Children deserve protection.
To locate local agencies that will help you evaluate your suspicions contact:
- National Children's Alliance 1-877-448-8678
- Child Sexual Abuse Stop It Now 1-888-773-8368
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) (English and Spanish available)
- Abuse Victim Hotline (free legal advice and counsel) 1-877-448-8678
- Incest Hotline 1-212-227-3000 (English and Spanish available)
- All States' Reporting : Child Welfare 1-800-FYI-3366 (1-800-394-3366) (English and Spanish available)