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Respond quickly to prevent & intervene in sexual abuse

There are three instances in which we need to react to sexual abuse: a child discloses abuse to us, we discover sexual abuse ourselves, or we have a reason to suspect it.


Speaking out can be scary. What if you don't know all the details? What if you aren't 100% sure? Report. You do not need proof that abuse if occurring to make a report, only reasonable suspicion. Reporting child sexual abuse is key in preventing and intervening in abuse.


A child has chosen you as the person he or she trusts enough to tell. The child has taken a huge risk in telling you, and what you do next is vital. Give attention, compassion, and belief.​ 

  • Listen calmly and openly

  • Don't fill in gaps

  • Don't ask leading questions about the details

  • Ask open-ended questions like, "What happened next?"

  • Don't overreact

  • Say, "I believe you" and "what happened is not your fault."


Discovery of sexual abuse means you've witnessed a sexually abusive act by an adult or youth with a child, or know by another way that abuse has taken place. Report a discovery immediately to the police.


Suspicion means you've seen signs in a child, or you've witnessed boundary violations by adults or other youth. Suspicion means at a minimum, you need to set limits, or ask some questions. Offenders are rarely caught in the act of abusing a child, but they're often seen breaking the rules and/or pressing boundaries.

How do I report abuse?

All adults should always act in the best interest of the child. But some individuals are Mandated Reporters and required by law to report abuse. Laws vary by state - it may be to child protective services, a department of family and child services of your county, or law enforcement.

Click your state below to see how to make a report and to find resources in your state including child advocacy centers and mental health services:

Very few reported incidents of child sexual abuse are false.

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