The Primary Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse
Stopping child sexual abuse... before it can happen.


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Concerning Behavioral Signs

One of the most practical things that you can do to prevent child sexual abuse is be aware of behavioral signs of a potential abuser: Someone who may be on the path to sexually abuse a child, or someone who already has but has not been caught by law enforcement. These signs can also signal other distress that is unrelated to sexual abuse, but may indicate a person needs help. Chances are high that if you see these behaviors, it is someone you know and trust, and they can be present in children almost as often as adults. There is no profile for someone who is at-risk to abuse a child, just behaviors.


If you know a child is being sexually abused or that someone is abusing a child, then ignore this section and visit Reporting Allegations To Law Enforcement. Be aware that it is law enforcement's job to know the law, how it applies, and how to investigate allegations and suspicions properly, and not yours. No amount of information given on this site gives you the expertise to play detective into criminal behavior.


Knowing these behavioral signs is just a first step. It is well worth noting that these behaviors are things that, individually, we may see in people every single day, but dismiss as irrelevant, or excuse because it is someone we care about. Because of this, when you sense a possible concern about someone, it may be helpful to keep a notebook handy and write down when you spot individual behavior aside their name and the date you observed the behavior. The point is not to be a detective, but to assure yourself that you are not just seeing things or paranoid by keeping an objective record of some kind, something you can refer to later.

The Purpose Is Getting Help To Those Who Need It, Not Labeling People

This list of behaviors is comprehensive, and any one item on the list can often mean nothing, while several items on the list may be cause for a conversation about what you are seeing. The purpose is not to label, accuse, or defame the person. Again, it is highly likely that the person is someone you know and care about.


You want to help them, and that is the purpose of this list: Help identify those who may need help, and be a support to them as you direct them to that help. "Get help," is not a phrase used to hurt or belittle people, it is you, as a concerned person, showing that concern by talking people through their options and walking with them to show that you care. If you are not able to show that compassion, then tell someone about your concerns so that they can show compassion and help the person in question.


If you use this list to threaten, stalk, harass, accuse, defame, or label someone as a sexual abuser or potential sexual abuser, you are in violation of the terms of this site and may be in violation of the laws in your area.

Often, the biggest tool we have to preventing sexual abuse is our gut instinct. It is also worth paying extra attention to that instinct if our gut reaction is triggered in addition to these behaviors. The best course of action to take when we see multiple behaviors can depend on each situation, but generally, it may be helpful to have a series of conversations with the person who is displaying these behaviors so that you can better understand them and show your concern for the person involved. To learn how to have these conversations, visit How To Have A Conversation With A Potential Abuser.