How to Report Sexual Abuse

Although 80,000 reports of sexual abuse against children are made each year, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reports that this number is far lower than the actual number. Nine out of 10 children know their abuser, and 68 percent of the time, the abuser is a family member. The problems that victims of sexual abuse face are significant, because this is a crime often kept secret. Keeping sexual assault secret leads to victims not receiving help, which makes them more prone to depression, alcoholism and drug abuse. When people report sexual abuse to the police, this is often the first step in getting help for the victim.


  1. Image titled Report Sexual Abuse to the Police Step 1
    Define sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is sexual assault, rape and incest. It is also any type of sexual contact that is harmful to a child's physical, mental, or emotional welfare and when there is inequity in age, understanding, size or power.
    • Sexual abuse doesn't require force or threats. It can also result from tricks or bribes
    • Making a child feel responsible for what has happened is another tactic used by abusers.
  2. 2
    Look for warning signs if you suspect someone is being sexually abused.
    • Physical signs can include difficulty sitting or walking, itching or swelling in the genital area or frequent urinary infections.
    • Behavioral signs can include inappropriate sexual knowledge or behavior, bedwetting, sleep and eating disorders, school problems, suicide attempts or overly protective behavior for younger siblings.
  3. Image titled Report Sexual Abuse to the Police Step 3
    Talk to a child who you suspect may have been sexually assaulted.
    • Pick a place and time where the child is more likely to feel comfortable.
    • Never talk to a child about abuse in front of a possible abuser.
    • Ask a child if anyone has been touching him or her in ways that make him or her uncomfortable.
    • Ask a child if anyone has been asking him or her to keep secrets. Tell a child that it's not right to ask someone to keep secrets.
    • Phrase questions in a non-judgmental way. Victims of sexual abuse are never "asking for it."
    • Phrase statements and questions using "I" instead of "you." For instance, "I am concerned because..."
  4. Image titled Report Sexual Abuse to the Police Step 4
    Report abuse directly to the police by calling them on the number used for emergencies in your country.
    • If you are under 18, the police will also contact a child protective service. Their job is to be your advocate and keep you safe.
  5. Image titled Report Sexual Abuse to the Police Step 5
    Tell a trusted adult if you're uncomfortable with calling the police yourself.
    • An adult or other friend can report abuse to the police or child protective services on your behalf.
    • Sometimes the people you tell about incest or sexual abuse won't believe you; if that happens, keep trying until someone does believe you.
  6. Image titled Report Sexual Abuse to the Police Step 6
    Make the call on behalf of a child, if a child trusts you by providing information of the sexual assault. All states in the U.S. have passed a mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting law and, by keeping quiet, you may be found guilty of civil or criminal liability .
    • In particular, teachers, other school personnel and healthcare providers are required by law to notify the police or child protective authorities.
  7. Image titled Report Sexual Abuse to the Police Step 7
    Call the Child-help Hotline free at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) and press 1 for a crisis counselor or a similar service in your country.
    • A hotline crisis counselor can give you the number in your community to call.
    • A hotline crisis counselor can also make a three-way call and stay on the call with you while you report abuse.


  • The Child-help National Child Abuse Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if you aren't sure if you want to report abuse, you can speak with a counselor and all calls are anonymous. Hotline counselors have access to translators who speak 140 languages.
  • Make certain that children know that it's OK to say "no" to an adult who touches them in ways that make them uncomfortable and to always tell a trusted adult right away.


  • Know that sexual abuse can escalate over time.

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Categories: Abuse