Child is a victim of sexual abuse or assault

Sexual abuse or assault is any sexual contact between an adult and a child or between an older child and a younger child. Showing pornography to a child is a type of sexual abuse.

Signs of sexual abuse of a child are not likely to be noticed without an examination of the genital area. Certain behaviors may give a clue that sexual abuse has occurred:

  • Age-inappropriate awareness and knowledge of sex or sexual behavior
  • Running away from home
  • Involvement with drugs or prostitution
  • Suicide attempts

If you think or know that a child has been sexually abused or assaulted:

  • Call the police immediately. Certain people, such as doctors, social workers, and teachers, are required by law in all 50 states to report suspected child abuse and neglect, usually to the police or to state child protection services. In some states, all citizens are mandated by law to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect.
  • Remember the assault was not the child's fault.
  • Find a safe environment for the child—anywhere away from the attacker.
  • Preserve evidence of the attack—do not let the child change clothes, eat, drink, smoke, bathe, brush teeth, or clean up in any way. Write down all the details about the attack and the attacker.
  • Get medical attention for the child. Even with no physical injuries, it is important to determine the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy. To preserve evidence, the doctor may do a special exam (called a forensic medical exam). If you think the child may have been drugged, ask that a urine sample be taken.
  • Call the local or national rape crisis hotline for support, information, and advice. A counselor can help you through the process. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer information, advice, and support. Call toll-free: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

Last Updated: January 14, 2010

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.