If you even suspect that a child is a victim of sexual abuse, please report it immediately. A sexual assault of a child or adult is a criminal act.
Call 911 for police and/or paramedic assistance if the situation is an emergency. An emergency is a situation where a child faces an immediate risk of assault that could result in death or serious harm.
If a child has made an outcry of abuse to you, always believe him or her. Statistics show that children rarely lie about such an intense and painful act. By believing the child and reporting the abuse, you will reaffirm the trust the child has in adults to protect him or her.
For non-emergencies, call either:
- Rape Abuse Incest National Network Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4663)
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)
- Your state’s Child Protective Services listed here
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. It created and operates their Hotline in partnership with more than 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.
The Child Abuse Hotline is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Serving the United States, its territories and Canada, the Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who can provide assistance through interpreters in 170 languages. The Hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential. The Child Abuse Hotline crisis counselors can’t make the child abuse report for you, but are there to help you through it. State Hotlines operate in similar fashion.
In most states, call CPS (Child Protective Services) if you want them to investigate suspected child sexual abuse within 24 hours. If timeliness is not a factor, you may be able to make a report online.
If you are a parent, we strongly encourage you NOT to contact CPS directly. Contact a professional who regularly has direct contact with children for help and let him/her make the call. CPS prefers to receive reports from more objective third parties, especially professionals such as teachers, doctors, nurses, therapists and police. Generally, initial investigations of child neglect/abuse are performed by CPS. Law enforcement is called in if CPS suspects abuse/neglect and needs additional help.
Please be aware that CPS is generally swamped with investigations and it may take a while before you hear back from them. Parents are welcome to call case workers and supervisors for information but they may not have the answers that parents want when they want them.
Do not call a Children’s Advocacy Center to report child abuse/neglect. Such facilities are designed so professionals can meet together as a group to interview a child, thereby eliminating the need for the child victim to have to tell his/her story more than once. They are not open to the public.
After CPS has investigated a case, they may request assistance from CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). CASA volunteer case workers serve as voices in court for children removed from homes due to abuse/neglect. They also meet regularly with the children to determine their needs. Do not call CASA for assistance with abused or neglected children.
In most if not all states, professionals – everyone who has direct contact with children in their positions of employment – are required to make reports within 48 hours of any incidents when they suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation of children has occurred. A professional may not delegate to or rely on another person to make the report.
Sign of Child Sexual Abuse
If your child is suddenly exhibiting any of these signs, he or she may have been sexually abused:
- Changes in behavior: withdrawal, fearfulness, crying without provocation
- Night sweats with screaming or shaking, and nightmares
- Regression to more infantile behavior: bed-wetting, thumb sucking
- Loss of appetite or other eating problems
- Poorly explained injuries: bruises, rashes, cuts, genital pain or bleeding
- Sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person
- Unusual interest in or knowledge of sexually related matters; inappropriate expression of affection
- Changes in school performance and attendance
- Lack of personal care or hygiene, such as consistently dirty or severe body odor
- Engaging in high-risk activities such, as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon
Some signs that a child is experiencing sexual abuse are more obvious than others. Trust your instincts. Suspected abuse is enough of a reason to contact the authorities.
Adults Who Are Child Abuse Survivors
If you like Erin Merryn and thousands of others were sexually abused as a child, but you don’t know what to do or where to get help, please consider following these steps as outlined by Wade, a male adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse who appeared on Dr. Phil’s show.
- Be totally honest with yourself about the abuse and then talk about it.
- Let yourself off the hook, because it was not your fault. Even if you feel like you participated, it was not your fault.
- Write about your feelings on a daily basis.
- Find a therapist who you trust.
- Find a support group that you feel at home with. When you go, be open and share your thoughts and feelings.
- Say the words, “I was sexually abused, molested, raped, or sexually assaulted,” until the words lose their power.
- Forgive the past and let it all go. The good stuff, the bad stuff and the really ugly stuff –everything! Let go of everything about the past.
- If you fell into negative behaviors because of your past, forgive that too. That was just the way you learned to cope with your pain.
- Include God in your healing process. He saw it all when it occurred and hates it like you do, but he can heal you, if you let him.
- Dig deep to find the courage, strength and determination to love for yourself.