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Video: How to Recognize and Deal with Child Sexual Abuse

It can be difficult to know whether a child is being abused, as the abuser may be secretive about their actions. In this video, aimed at parents and carers, a child sex abuse consultant from the Marie Collins Foundation explains what to do if you think a child is being harmed, and how to discuss the subject of abuse with a child.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

Child sexual abuse is any sexual behaviour directed towards children…by adults, male and female, and by young people themselves.

Child Sexual Abuse Involves Activities Ranging from:

  • Voyeurism
  • to rape of children
  • and now involves sexual behavior online

What Do We Need to Know

  • 1 in 6 young adults reported being sexually abused before age 16 (results of recent UK study)
  • Very few (~25%) tell anyone due to extensive guilt
  • Impact can be extensive

Signs to look for

  • Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys/objects
  • Nightmares/sleeping problems
  • Withdrawing or becoming clingy
  • Personality changes or regressing to younger behaviors
  • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Physical signs
  • Becoming secretive

How Do We Handle This

  • If someone makes you uncomfortable around your child, and you suspect someone is abusing your child – call a helpline and talk to someone
    • UK: 0808 1000 900
    • US & Canada: 800-422-4453
    • Australia: 1 800 55 1800
  • Talk to your child
    • adjust the conversation to their age
    • try not to act shocked – be reassuring
    • try not to interrupt other than to check that the child is alright
    • let them know you will keep them safe, but you will need to bring in help – the police or children’s services – to do that.

It’s a big step to make that call and accuse someone and we often hesitate – but if you don’t – know that the abuse will continue and the child or children could be affected for the rest of their life.

Additional UK Resources:

  • Childline: 0800 1111
  • NSPCC National Child Protection Helpline: 0800 8005000
  • Child Exploitation and Online Protection:
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