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While every child is different, here are a few of the common signs of abuse:

  • Has a child’s behavior changed? Do they experience fear, anxiety, depression, aggression or withdrawal?
  • Is the child afraid to go home or to see certain individuals?
  • Is a child showing overly sexualized behavior or using sexual language that’s inappropriate for the child’s age?
  • Have you noticed changes in a child’s sleeping patterns including frequent nightmares or difficulty falling asleep? Does the child look tired?
  • Have you noticed changes in school performance and attendance, such as being unable to concentrate in class or frequent absences?
  • Have a child’s eating habits changed leading to weight gain or loss?
  • Do you see signs of visible unexplained injuries such as burns, bruises, or broken bones?
  • Is a child using drugs or alcohol?

Do you suspect a child is being abused? 

Call the NYS Child Abuse Hotline to make a report: 1-800-342-3720

 

What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse is any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer. Sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors. Touching behaviors may involve touching of the vagina, penis, breasts or buttocks, oral-genital contact, or sexual intercourse. Non-touching behaviors can include voyeurism (trying to look at a child’s naked body), exhibitionism, or exposing the child to pornography. Abusers often do not use physical force, but may use play, deception, threats, or other forms of coercion to engage children and maintain their silence. Abusers frequently employ persuasive and manipulative tactics to keep the child engaged. These tactics—referred to as “grooming”—may include buying gifts or arranging special activities, which can further confuse the victim.

Children who have been sexually abused may display a range of emotional and behavioral reactions, many of which are characteristic of children who have experienced other types of trauma. These reactions include:

  • An increase in nightmares and/or other sleeping difficulties
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Angry outbursts
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Not wanting to be left alone with a particular individual(s)
  • Sexual knowledge, language, and/or behaviors that are inappropriate for the child’s age

Although many children who have experienced sexual abuse show behavioral and emotional changes, many others do not. It is therefore critical to focus not only on detection, but on prevention and communication by teaching children about body safety and healthy body boundaries, and by encouraging open communication about sexual matters.

 

Tips to Help Protect Children From Sexual Abuse

  1. Teach children accurate names of private body parts.
  2. Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.” Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.
  3. Teach children about body safety and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touches.
  4. Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Empower them to say no when they do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (e.g., politely refusing hugs) and to say no to touching others.
  5. Make sure children know that adults and older children never need help with their private body parts (e.g., bathing or going to the bathroom).
  6. Teach children to take care of their own private parts (i.e., bathing, wiping after bathroom use) so they don’t have to rely on adults or older children for help.
  7. Educate children about the difference between good secrets (like surprise parties—which are okay because they are not kept secret for long) and bad secrets (those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are not okay).
  8. Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving a child with someone, don’t do it. If you’re concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.

* National Child Traumatic Stress Network, (2009). Caring for Kids: Child Sexual Abuse Factsheet.  The full factsheet is available here.

Other Helpful Resources

Prevent Child Abuse New York:

Prevent Child Abuse New York, a state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, is on the forefront of a growing movement to stop child abuse and neglect before it has a chance to start. We serve as a resource for parents and families, connecting them with help, support and resources. We advocate for programs and policies that support families and prevent abuse. We foster a statewide network of individuals and organizations committed to prevention.

 

Prevent Child Abuse America:

Our mission is to prevent the abuse and neglect of our nation’s children.

 

New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children:

The mission of The NYSPCC is to respond to the complex needs of abused and neglected children, and those involved in their care, by providing best practice counseling, legal, and educational services. Through research, communications and training initiatives, we work to expand these programs to prevent abuse and help more children heal.

 

Office of Children and Family Services:

The Office of Children and Family Services serves New York’s public by promoting the safety, permanency and well-being of our children, families and communities. We will achieve results by setting and enforcing policies, building partnerships, and funding and providing quality services.

Division of Criminal Justice Services:

DCJS enhances public safety by providing resources and services that inform decision making and improve the quality of the criminal justice system.

New York State Office of Victim Services:

OVS has a three-tiered mission to:

  • provide compensation to innocent victims of crime in a timely, efficient and compassionate manner.
  • fund direct services to crime victims via a network of community-based programs.
  • advocate for the rights and benefits of all innocent victims of crime.

 

National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth:

The Mission of NCSBY is to promote better lives, through better choices by youth, caregivers, and professionals for healthier responses to and prevention of problematic sexual behavior of youth. NCSBY provides national training and technical assistance to improve the accuracy, accessibility, and strategic use of accurate information about the nature, incidence, prevalence, prevention, treatment, and management of youth with problematic sexual behavior.

 

National Child Traumatic Stress Network:

Established by Congress in 2000, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) brings a singular and comprehensive focus to childhood trauma. NCTSN’s collaboration of frontline providers, researchers, and families is committed to raising the standard of care while increasing access to services. Combining knowledge of child development, expertise in the full range of child traumatic experiences, and dedication to evidence-based practices, the NCTSN changes the course of children’s lives by changing the course of their care.

 

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® is a non—profit 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation, and prevent child victimization. Since 1984, NCMEC has served as the national clearinghouse and resource center for families, victims, private organizations, law enforcement and the public on issues relating to missing and sexually exploited children.