ABOUT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

WHY ARE SO MANY CHILDREN AFRAID TO TELL SOMEONE WHAT IS HAPPENING?

  • It is estimated that less than one in twelve children will tell.
  • As children come to understand that is happening, they may be ashamed of what they wrongly believe is their participation in the abuse or that they somehow encouraged the abuse.
  • They may have been threatened into silence. Threats may be directed at the child, at other family members, or perhaps at the child’s pet.
  • They may be afraid no one will believe them.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MY CHILD FROM SEXUAL ABUSE?

  • Urge your children to tell you about anyone who hurts or scares them or makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Encourage your children to come to you for help no matter what happens.
  • Pay careful attention to persons around your children. Keep in mind that even "nice" people, people you trust, can do mean, hurtful or wrong things.
  • Trust your instincts.

WHAT IF A CHILD TELLS ME HE/SHE IS BEING ABUSED?

Shock…fear…anger…disbelief…sickened…guilt.

Every emotion may overwhelm you, but all of that is irrelevant. Your first priority is to help this child who has trusted you enough to tell you what has happened. Here are some ways to do that:

Take a deep breath to calm yourself. Try to remain calm. Yes, your feelings are honest and normal, but a strong reaction may cause the child to feel guilty, ashamed or fearful. The child may interpret your anger or disgust at the perpetrator as anger or disgust at them.

WHAT IF I SUSPECT A CHILD IS BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED?

Trust your gut! Talk to someone about your suspicions. Step in, stop abuse! Report!

HOW CAN I TELL IF A CHILD HAS BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED?

Unfortunately, there is not always a clear signal that indicates a child is being sexual abused. There are, however, signs that indicate a child might be experiencing some kind of abuse. Any one sign does not mean a child is being abused. For example, these signs may indicate a child is experiencing stress due to a divorce or a death in the family. However, if you notice a child is experiencing several of the symptoms listed below, you should be asking questions:

HOW OFTEN DOES CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE HAPPEN?

It is generally believed that an estimated one in four girls will be sexually abused by her 18th birthday. Boys are abused at the rate of about one in six. Usually, the abuse begins gradually and then increases over time. It is rarely a one-time incident. Often, it continues for years, until the abuser is found out or the child grows up and moves away.

WHAT IS CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE?

Child sexual abuse is any sexual contact with a child. It can take many forms — including both touching and non-touching behaviors.

Touching behaviors include:

One Child's Story of Sexual Abuse

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape

What is the HERO Project?

HERO, a project of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, is a community-based, media-driven, child sexual abuse prevention program designed to educate and motivate adult community members to call the 24-hour HERO Hotline if they suspect child sexual abuse. Learn More about how to step in and stop abuse