& Toddler survivors
Know signs of abuse:
All adults who have or work with children should know the signs of child sexual abuse. This is a good tip sheet to learn about warning signs.
If you suspect abuse:
Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem okay, it probably isn’t. You could use some of our infant and toddler resources, our elementary school-age resources, or other resources to start a conversation if you are not sure exactly how.
If you’re concerned about a child and they start to allude to possible sexual abuse, you can say something like, “Can you tell me more about that?”
Remind the child that they are the bosses of their body and no one should touch them without their consent. Talk about how no one should ask them to keep secrets from other adults in their lives. Let them know that if someone or something makes them feel uncomfortable, nervous, or scared, they can come and talk to you or another adult they trust.
If you aren’t sure how to navigate the situation, call your local sexual assault support line. In Iowa, you can call the Iowa Victim Services Call Center 24/7 at 1-800-770-1650 or text IOWAHELP TO 20121.
Decide what actions you can take to help keep the child safer. If you’re not sure, your local advocacy program can help talk through your options. Follow through on the decision that you have made.
Take care of yourself and seek support.
If a child discloses to you:
If a child discloses to you, it’s important to stay calm. Thank them for telling you. Make sure that they know that you believe them, that what happened was not their fault, and that you are going to help. A part of survivors’ ability to heal is how people respond to the first disclosure. Be the person that child needs at that moment: calm, supportive, and kind.
Be honest with the child and don’t make promises you may not be able to keep. This includes saying something like “the person who hurt you will go to jail” or “you never have to see them again.” This may not be true, and it may also not be what the child wants. Be as honest as possible with them about what you’re going to do with this information, who else you need to talk to about it, and anything you know about what might happen next.
Responding to disclosures is difficult any time, but it can feel overwhelming when the person disclosing is a child that you care about. You are not alone. You can talk to an advocate. You can also take a look at these resources for help on what to do next. Answers to these frequently asked questions may also be helpful.
Know Signs of Abuse
All adults who have or work with children should know the signs of child sexual abuse.
This is a good tip sheet to learn about warning signs.
If you are the parent of the child,
What Should I Do After A Child Tells?