FAQ’s

We want you to better understand child abuse. The following frequently asked questions are designed to educate you about child maltreatment. If you still have questions after reading these materials, please call us at (570) 265-4132. We are here to help.

What is child sexual abuse?
What is child physical abuse?
What is child emotional abuse?
Are there other forms of abuse?
As a parent, is there anything special I need to know about abuse?
What type of person typically sexually abuses children?
Why do some adults not believe children when they report sexual abuse?
What can I do to protect children from sexual abuse?



What is child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse can include any kind of sexual act directed toward a child by an adult or by an older or more powerful child. Sexual abuse has many forms:
• Sexual touching and fondling;
• Exposing a child to pornographic materials, adult sexual activity or sexually explicit talk;
• Exposure of the genitals, including photographing the child’s genitals or the child in a sexual position;
• Oral sex;
• Non-contact, grooming;
• Any type of penetration of a child’s vagina or anus, however slight, by a penis, finger, tongue or other object.

What is child physical abuse?

Child physical abuse is the inflicting of physical injury upon a child. Physical abuse may include burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating, or otherwise harming a child. While the adult or older or more powerful child may not have intended to hurt the child, the injury is not an accident. The abuse may, however, have been the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child’s age.

What is child emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse includes acts or the failures to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional or mental disorders. This can include threatening a child, belittling or rejecting a child, using derogatory terms to describe the child, and habitual scapegoating or blaming.

Are there other forms of abuse?

Yes. Child abuse can include physical neglect, emotional neglect, educational neglect and medical neglect. Neglect is when a child’s basic needs for food, housing, health care and warm clothing are not met. Children who are made to live in unhygienic conditions are said to experience neglect. Leaving children without adequate supervision for their age is also a form of neglect.
Child abuse also includes exposure to domestic violence and exposure to substance abuse. Exposure to family violence between adults in a child’s home is harmful to children. It can include witnessing or being aware of it happening between adults in the home. Exposure to substance abuse such as drugs or alcohol by parents and other caregivers can have negative effects on the health, safety, and well-being of children.

What type of person typically sexually abuses children?
Unfortunately, there is no one set of characteristics that describes individuals who sexually abuse children. Sex offenders are represented in every socio-economic, ethnic, religious and racial group. We do know that most sex offenders are known to their victim and the victim’s family.
People who sexually abuse children usually want to continue to have access to the child so the abuse can continue, and want the child to accept the sexual behaviors as okay. For these reasons, most offenders groom their victims by acts of love, special attention and gifts. Offenders may define the relationship and the child as special. Remember, individuals who sexually abuse children are often loved and cherished adults in or close to the child’s family who play a positive role in the child’s life.

Wouldn’t a child who has been sexually abused be fearful of the offender?

People who sexually abuse children usually want to continue to have access to the child so the abuse can continue. They also want the child to accept the sexual behaviors as okay. For these reasons, most offenders groom their victims by acts of love, special attention and gifts. Offenders may define the relationship and the child as special. Remember, individuals who sexually abuse children are often loved and cherished adults in or close to the child’s family who play a positive role in the child’s life.

Why do some adults not believe children when they report sexual abuse?

Many adults continue to believe that child sexual abuse is rare or it could never happen to the children they know. Adults do not want to believe that someone they know and trust — someone like them — could sexually abuse a child. Refusing to believe that a child has been sexually abused is a defense mechanism that many adults use to protect themselves from having to face the discomfort and reality of this crime against children.
When the offender is someone in the family, acknowledging the abuse can result in loss to others in the family. If the offender is the father, the mother may be blamed for being with someone who could abuse a child. The non-offending caregiver may believe that if she attempts to protect the child, the offender will physically harm her and/or her child. Non-offending parents also risk losing the support of their communities, houses of worship, and extended families if these groups believe the offender’s denial rather than the child’s report. When the alleged offender is an older child in the family, parents may feel that they have to choose between the victim and offender if they believe the report of abuse.

What can I do to protect children from sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is a major health hazard that affects at least twenty percent of our children. While there is no action that is guaranteed to protect children from sexual abuse, there are steps adults can take to decrease the likelihood of abuse. As an adult, it is important for you to understand that children are not prepared or able to protect themselves from this risk. Children must rely on the adults in their lives to keep them safe. In order to protect children, adults must become educated about child sexual abuse.

I couldn’t imagine my child enduring abuse. How is it possible for an abuser to convince my child to participate? 

Abusers devise a thorough plan to manipulate the child and his/her family. By manipulating the child and his/her family, the abuser grooms the child and the family to gain trust. The abuser now uses his/her relationship with the family to take advantage of one-on-one time with the child. Once the victim has been groomed, it becomes difficult for a child to escape abuse or feel comfortable telling someone about the abuse. The grooming has created a sense of loyalty from the child to the abuser; in 93% of abuse cases, the child knows and trusts their abuser.

I couldn’t imagine my child enduring abuse. How is it possible for an abuser to convince my child to participate?

Abusers devise a thorough plan to manipulate the child and his/her family. By manipulating the child and his/her family, the abuser grooms the child and the family to gain trust. The abuser now uses his/her relationship.

I couldn’t imagine my child enduring abuse. How is it possible for an abuser to convince my child to participate?

Abusers devise a thorough plan to manipulate the child and his/her family. By manipulating the child and his/her family, the abuser grooms the child and the family to gain trust. The abuser now uses his/her relationship.

What does it mean when a perpetrator “grooms” a child or family?

Grooming is when a perpetrator builds a relationship with a child and building trust. Grooming makes it difficult to escape the abuse and keeps the child from telling, as he likes the person and feels loyalty to him. It makes the child feel that it is his/her fault. At times power and authority is used as a tool.

It is important to recognize when grooming may be occurring; once a child is groomed they internalize the abuse as their own fault, making the possibility of them telling someone minimal. Some signs of grooming to look for:

  • Buying the child gifts/giving the child money
  • Finding excuses for one-on-one time with the child
  • Treating the child as more special than other children
  • Viewing child when nude or exposing child to nudity/pornography
  • Excessive appropriate touching/inappropriate touching
  • Talking about sexual activity with a child

What is involved regarding sexual abuse between an abuser and a child?

Perpetrators downplay the defenses of children by explaining they were merely playing a “game”. Abuse usually begins with touching and kissing and progresses to more severe sexual activity. The perpetrator often creates names for the child’s and his/her own genitals to lessen the child’s alarm at what is happening.

I believe my child tells me everything. Wouldn’t he/she tell me if he/she was being abused?

Abusers manipulate children into keeping the abuse a secret. Children feel helpless to disclose the abuse, due to the fact that the abuser has told them many reasons why the child shouldn’t tell.

Some reasons why a child would not tell include:

  • The abuser is a trusted friend/family member; the child thinks no one will believe him/her
  • The child feels ashamed or embarrassed
  • The abuser has threatened the child or the child’s family
  • The abuser blames the child; the child feels responsible and doesn’t want to get in trouble
  • The abuser bribes the child
  • The child likes his/her abuser and doesn’t want the abuser to get in trouble

If my child doesn’t tell me about abuse, how else can I find out if abuse has occurred?

1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday.

Only 1 in 10 will tell. A recent study of 116 confirmed cases of abuse where a child disclosed, showed that 74% of the time it was an accidental disclosure. This means that the abuse was discovered not by the child coming forth with the information, but by third parties observing unusual behaviors or symptoms. Some signs to look for in a child suffering from abuse are as follows:

  • Child acts out sexually
  • Child acts out behaviorally
  • Child develops venereal disease and infections
  • Child has frequent fears, anxieties, nightmares
  • Child has poor self-esteem or depression
  • Adolescents may run away, commit crimes, abuse drugs & alcohol
  • Adolescents become withdrawn and depressed
  • Adolescents are self-injurious or suicidal

It is important to note here that many times children and adolescents display no symptoms (over 1/3 of confirmed cases). For this reason, it is important to do whatever you can to prevent and educate your home about sexual abuse. Talk to your children about “welcome” and “unwelcome” touches. Empower them to say “No” and get away from uncomfortable situations. They need to know they should tell you or another trusted adult if someone has made them uncomfortable. If you can’t see the symptoms of abuse, giving your child the opportunity for open dialogue can make all the difference in preventing and treating sexual abuse.
My child has been sexually abused. What will this abuse do to their mental health?

Many victims report that the emotional damage from abuse brings more suffering than the abuse itself. It is important to know the common effects of sexual abuse.

Common mental health issues that plague children include:

  • Depression – Victims are 3-5 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • Damaged goods syndrome – “No one will want me now because I’ve been abused.”
  • Distorted body image – eating disorders
  • Low self-esteem and poor social skills
  • Poor development and immaturity
  • Anger and hostility Inability to trust

Do we as parents need to be concerned about the validity of our child’s allegation of sexual abuse?

Children rarely lie about abuse. Only 2-8% of allegations are false; therefore the overwhelming majority of true allegations beg you as a parent to believe your child. Additionally, questions of a child’s credibility arise when court cases involving divorce and child custody are involved. As an example, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Research Unit, out of 9,000 divorce cases from 12 different states, found that only 1.5% of the cases involved sexual abuse allegations; only 9 of these allegations proved to be false. From this objective study, only 0.1% of child abuse allegations were determined to be fabricated. We urge you to always believe your child and follow through with the next step of reporting.