Learn More About Child Abuse


  • 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they reach 18 years of age.1
  • Over 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. 2, 3
  • Approximately 30% of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members. 2, 3
  • Five children die every day in the United States from child abuse and neglect.4
  • For more information about child abuse, visit www.cdc.gov


  • Changes in behavior – A victim of abuse could appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or aggressive.
  • Regression to earlier behaviors – A child may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers.
  • Fear of going home or to previously trusted places – Children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping – The stress, fear, and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating behaviors, which may result in weight changes, or the child may have frequent nightmares/difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.
  • Changes in school performance and attendance – Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the child’s injuries from authorities.
  • Lack of personal care or hygiene – Abused and neglected children present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
  • Inappropriate sexual language or behaviors – Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use sexual language that is not age appropriate.
  • Unexplained Injuries – Visible signs of physical abuse may be present, such as bruises, burns, or broken bones; however, it is extremely uncommon to have physical findings in sexual abuse incidents.


Those who victimize children are responsible for their actions but, as caring adults, there are steps we can each take to minimize risks and help protect children.

  • Learn about child sexual abuse, including how to recognize possible signs of abuse and respond to concerns.
  • Be prepared to report concerns or suspicions to the Department of Social Services or Law Enforcement. Contact Pat’s Place if you have questions or need support to do this.
  • Seek information about activities in which children will be involved, including policies and procedures for supervision and safety. Steps should be taken to minimize isolated, one-on-one interactions.
  • Talk with adults who will be responsible for caring for or supervising children. Ask about screening, training, and monitoring of employees and volunteers.
  • Learn about and watch for “grooming” behavior in adults who interact with children.
  • Talk with children and teens about their bodies, boundaries, and sex. Encourage questions and conversation.
  • Respect privacy and personal space – encourage independence in toileting, dressing, and hygiene.
  • Monitor children and teen’s television, video, and internet usage/viewing. Exposure to violence or pornography can impact healthy development.


  1. Townsend, C., Rheingold, A. A., (2013).  Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners:  A review of child sexual abuse prevalence studies.  Charleston, S.C., Darkness to Light.
  2. Finkelhor, D. (2012). Characteristics of crimes against juveniles. Durham, NH: Crimes against Children Research Center.
  3. Whealin, J. (2007-05-22). Child Sexual Abuse. National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, US Department of Veterans Affairs.
  4. Centers for Disease Control. (2022). Fast Facts: Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/fastfact.html

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