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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Child Sexual Abuse?
    Child sexual abuse is a form of child maltreatment in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of another person. This can occur between a child and adult or between two children. It does not have to involve direct contact and it can take many forms including touching, penetration, taking of photographs, voyeurism, sex trafficking, exploitation, and exhibitionism.
  • How is Child Sexual Abuse Defined in New York State?
    In New York State, sexual abuse is defined in several penal law codes and involves: 1. Sexual acts (article 130 of the penal law) 2. Prostitution (§§ 230.25, 230.30, and 230.32 of the penal law) 3. Incest (§§ 255.25, 255.26, and 255.27 of the penal law) 4. Pornography (article 263 of the penal law) 5. Sexual trafficking (22 U.S.C. § 7102) For the state statutes:
  • Who are the Victims of Child Sexual Abuse?
    Sexual abuse can happen to children of any race, socioeconomic group, religion or culture.
  • Who Perpetrates Child Sexual Abuse?
    The majority (over 90%) of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are individuals who are already known to the child. This includes family members (parents and relatives) and acquaintances (such as teachers, coaches, caretakers, clergy). The proportion of sexual abuse perpetrated by a stranger increases as children get older, starting at 3% for children birth to 5 years, 4.7% for children between 6 and 11 years, and as high as 9.8% for children between 12 and 18 years. Sexual abuse can also be perpetrated on a child by another child. Most juvenile sexual offenders are not pedophiles, are responsive to treatment, and do not commit sexual offenses as an adult.
  • What are the Physical Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse?
    Sexual abuse rarely leaves physical signs and symptoms, but here are some to be aware of: ​ Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in genital or anal area Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes Difficulty walking or sitting Frequent urinary or yeast infections Pain, itching, or burning in genital area Sexual transmitted disease Pregnancy
  • What are the Emotional/Behavioral Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse?
    Emotional signs, or changes, are more common signs of abuse. While any of these may be present that do not always mean a child is being sexually abused. However if they are happening, child sexual abuse must be considered. These signs include: Abnormal behavior, or sexual knowledge beyond the child's years Anxiety and depression Changes in eating habits Sleep disturbances Fear of certain people or places; recently scared to be with a certain individual Changes in mood including anger or aggression towards people Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities, such as sports Change in academic performance Poor self-esteem Suicidal thoughts or attempts Acting "too" perfect
  • What Harms are Associated with Child Sexual Abuse?
    The effects of child sexual abuse vary based on the individual and the circumstances. Some children have delayed reactions and some exhibit a range of serious behavioral and emotional disturbances including anxiety, depression, anger, difficulties sleeping, and social withdrawal. Many of these reactions are consistent with trauma exposure.
  • How Common is Child Sexual Abuse?
    1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they reach their 18th birthday. However, this number is based on disclosures made, and we know that there are more unreported cases of abuse.
  • How Can Parents/Caregivers Help Protect Their Children From Child Sexual Abuse?
    Be an involved parent/caregiver. Show your child that you care by knowing where they are and who they are spending time with. ​ Create an atmosphere of open communication. Let your child know that it is safe to share with you and ask questions, that it is not okay to have secrets. See our fact sheets for age-specific suggestions for talking with your child about sexual development. Know who your child is spending time with. Get to know your child’s friends and their families, their teammates, their school friends, coaches, and other important people in their life. ​ Choose caregivers wisely. Screen potential caregivers to ensure that they are safe. This includes babysitters, tutors, coaches, and any other adults who have ongoing access to your child. Be media smart and savvy. Know what apps your child is using and check your child’s devices regularly to ensure your child is not engaging in any inappropriate communications. Get to know the rating systems of video games, movies, and television shows and make use of the parental controls available through many internet, cable, and satellite providers. Providing appropriate alternatives is an important part of avoiding exposure to sexual content in the media. Know the warning signs. Become familiar with the signs so that you can step in before something happens. Choose activities and programs carefully. Determine the hiring and other child safety practices used by any program or organization where you plan to enroll your child. Talk with Your Child’s Pediatrician If you have any concerns about your child’s behavior talk with your child's pediatrician. He or she can work with you to distinguish age-appropriate and normal sexual behaviors from behaviors that are developmentally inappropriate or signal potential abuse. Asking for help means you want what is best for your child, and you will do whatever you can to help him or her succeed.
  • What is Grooming?
    The term grooming applies to a set of behaviors that a potential sexual abuse perpetrator engages in to gain access to the child, coerce or manipulate them to agree to the abuse and/or to keep it a secret. Grooming involves building a relationship, establishing trust and an emotional connection in order to exploit the child. People who engage in grooming behavior not only groom the child, but also the entire family.
  • Does Child Sexual Abuse Always Involve Grooming?
    No, particularly when the offender is another child or teen. Abuse can happen in response to opportunity and poor impulse control of the perpetrator. It does not always involve a grooming process.
  • What is Healthy Sexual Development?
    This is the term used to describe developmentally appropriate thoughts, feelings and behaviors children have around their bodies and sexuality. There is a wide range of behaviors that are consistent with healthy sexual development and many times parents and even professionals are confused about what behaviors are normative and which ones are not.
  • What are Problematic Sexual Behaviors In Children?
    Much sexual behavior in children is harmless but sometimes sexual behaviors are more than harmless curiosity and may be a sign that the child needs help and/or may pose a risk to the safety and well-being of other children. Here are some signs of a potential problem, when the sexual behavior: Occurs frequently and cannot be redirected Is causing emotional or physical pain or injury to themselves or others Is associated with physical aggression Involves coercion or force Simulates adult sexual acts Occurs between children when there is a significant age gap (i.e., a 13-year-old with a 4-year-old)
  • If You Have a Concern
    If you have a concern that a child is being abused, you do not need proof. In fact, trying to prove your suspicions may harm or ruin the investigation, and may put the child at risk. Only reasonable cause to suspect is necessary to report a concern. Reasonable cause is based on your experience as a trained professional, or based on information you have been told, or actions you have observed, there is enough information to cause a reasonable person to suspect that a child is being or has been sexually abused. You are simply saying that you have seen something or been told something and you are concerned and would like a professional to address the concern. Reasonable cause is not based upon your judgment of the child, the child's family, or the alleged offender.
  • What To Do If a Child Discloses Sexual Abuse?
    Stay calm and do not have a strong emotional reaction. Let the child know that you are proud of them and you will figure it out together. Find a private place to talk with the child Do not conduct an investigation Respect the child’s privacy and do not share information unless necessary Do not make promises to the child Do not judge the child Show care and concern for the child Make a report to the New York State Central Registry
  • How to Report Child Sexual Abuse?
    Call 311 in NYC or the New York State Central Register (SCR) directly at 1(800) 342-3720. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911. When making a report, you will be asked for information to help identify and locate the child or parents or caregivers/persons legally responsible for child, such as: Name and address of the child and family members Child's age, sex, and primary language Nature and extent of the child's injuries Type of abuse or neglect, including knowledge of prior history of abuse or neglect of the child or siblings Any additional information that may be helpful If the SCR believes the report warrants an investigation, the SCR will direct ACS/DSS/CPS to begin a child protective investigation.
  • What is a Child Advocacy Center?
    Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) are child-focused facilities that help abused children heal by coordinating the investigation and treatment of child sexual abuse and providing children and families access to long-term advocacy and healthcare. The primary goal of CACs is to ensure that children disclosing abuse are not further victimized by the intervention systems designed to protect them. Together, they work with law enforcement, prosecutors, social services, advocates, medical and mental health professionals and others to provide high-quality, specialized services for abused children and their families. What’s more, they provide many of these services in the comfort and convenience of child-friendly locations and all services are free. In NYS advocacy centers are part of the NYS Children's Alliance. Click here.
  • Where Should a Victim of Child Sexual Abuse Go For Treatment?
    Find your local Child Advocacy Center. Click here. The Enough Abuse campaign for New York State supports these resources: The Prevention and Parent Helpline at Prevent Child Abuse New York: 1-800-CHILDREN or New York State Children’s Alliance: Local Child Advocacy Centers: “Find a Center” link at New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault - Rape Crisis Centers: 518-482-4222 or New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault: 212-229-0345 or New York State Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers: or New York State Alliance of Sex Offender Service Providers: New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children: 212-233-5500 or
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