Tag: Keeping Children Safe

Keeping Your Family Safe During a Terrorist Attack

December 15, 20150 Comments

A series of studies conducted by researchers at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness show that while 72% of Americans anticipate future terror attacks, fewer than 50% of us have a family emergency plan in place. It is not likely that any of us will forget the images of the families who were affected during the Boston bombing, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, or the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting.

attacks-by-typeImage via FBI

After attacks and incidents such as these, people often wonder how to keep their families safe and ask, “What would I do?” So, if nearly 75% of Americans believe terrorist attacks are inevitable, why are so few American families prepared? The answer may lie in the term “terrorist attack” itself.

While people may consider the shootings at Sandy Hook and Aurora to be terrorist attacks, by definition, they were not. In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), “there is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism.

Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as ‘the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.’” It is difficult to be fully prepared for something when it’s not clear exactly what it is that you’re preparing for.
Along with the FBI, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also has provided somegeneral terrorism information:

Acts of Terrorism

threats of terrorism
bomb scares and bombings
cyber attacks (computer-based)
the use of chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons

High-Risk Targets for Acts of Terrorism

military and civilian government facilities
international airports
large cities
high-profile landmarks
large public gatherings
water and food supplies
corporate centers
mailings (explosives or chemical/biological agents may be sent through the mail)

The Seven Signs of Terrorism

Fearing future terrorist attacks does not mean that people have to live in fear every day. There are several steps people may take to help prepare and protect their families. One such action is to become familiar with the Seven Signs of Terrorism, developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York, that have been adopted by State Police across the country as an educational tool.

7-signsImage via HomelandSecurity.ms.gov

1. Surveillance: Be on the lookout for someone recording or monitoring activities. The type of recording does not have to be as obvious as a camera or a video camera; the person may be taking notes, drawing diagrams, annotating maps, or using binoculars, etc.

2. Elicitation: Be wary of people or groups who attempt to learn information about military operations, capabilities, or people. The attempts do not have to be face-to-face. They may be made by mail, telephone, etc.

3. Tests of Security: If someone is attempting to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of security measures, or if he is attempting to record and analyze reaction times to security breaches, contact your local authorities.

4. Acquiring Supplies: Be vigilant about people who purchase or steal explosives, weapons, ammunition, etc. Other supplies that may be needed for a terrorist attack are military uniforms, flight manuals, badges or the equipment to make them, and any other controlled items. And, as we learned in the Boston bombing, materials such as pressure cookers and fireworks also may be supplies that terrorists purchase in large quantities.

5. Suspicious persons out of place: Of course, we are wary of people who don’t seem to belong in our neighborhoods. But, people also may arouse suspicion at work, businesses, or anywhere, for that matter. Also be alert for people who suspiciously cross the border, stow away on board a ship, or jump ship in port if you are traveling.

6. Dry run/Trial run: Terrorists may practice their attack prior to carrying it out, so watch for people who move around but don’t seem to have a true purpose. A terrorist also may map out routes or time traffic lights, so be on the lookout for these types of activities.

7. Deploying Assets: Terrorists have to get people and supplies positioned prior to committing the terrorist act. If you suspect these activities are occurring, immediately contact the authorities because this may be the last chance you have to do so before the terrorist act takes place.

us-attacksImage via National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism

Virtually all state and federal agencies encourage families to take the time to prepare for terrorist attacks. There are three steps to help you get started on protecting your loved ones from acts of terrorism:

1. Know your work, school, and community disaster plans. If you do not know the plans, contact your supervisor, school administrators, or local fire department for information.

2. Identify an alternative hospital. Hospitals closest to the event always are the busiest.

3. Use online resources to create disaster plans and review steps for protecting yourself and your loved ones. FEMA provides a downloadable Family Emergency Plan.

Terrorist Attack: In a Public Place

Terrorists typically attack public places with large crowds because they want to cause the most damage and get the most attention for their cause. One of the best ways to keep your family safe from terrorist attacks in public places is to share and discuss the Seven Signs of Terrorism with age-appropriate children.

publicImage via The National Counterterrorism Center

A simpler way to discuss the signs of terrorism with children is to focus on “Look and Listen.” This approach narrows the Seven Signs of Terrorism to a more kid-friendly version that includes looking for:

Bags left unattended in public places.

People checking areas or buildings.

People trying to enter secure areas.

People at events wearing too much clothing.

Terrorist Attack: Explosive Devices

Terrorists use explosive devices as one of their most common weapons. According to a report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, bombings/explosions account for 51.53% of the tactics used in terrorist attacks in the United States from 1970-2011.

by-typeImage via The National Counterterrorism Center

Unfortunately, information for making explosive devices is readily available online and in other information sources, and the materials necessary for making the explosives easily are found in many places. Because of the portable nature of explosive devices and the ease with which they may be detonated from remote locations, terrorists rely on this type of weapon frequently.

One way to keep your family safe from these explosive devices is to know which types of parcels are suspect. Look for parcels that:

Are unexpected or from someone unknown to you

Have no return address, or have one that can’t be verified

Are marked with restrictions such as “Personal,” “Confidential,” or “Do not X-ray”

Have protruding wires or aluminum foil, strange odors, or stains

Show a city or state in the postmark that doesn’t match the return address

Are an unusual weight for their size or are lopsided or oddly shaped

Are marked with threatening language

Have inappropriate or unusual labeling

Have excessive postage or packaging material such as masking tape or string

Have misspellings of common words

Are addressed to someone not at the address listed or are otherwise outdated

Have incorrect titles or titles without a name

Are not addressed to a specific person

Have hand-written or poorly typed addresses

Be proactive about checking packages and share the information with your age-appropriate children. They may be responsible for getting your mail after school, or they may love to pick up the boxes left on your stoop during the day, so it is important that they know which types of packages may be unsafe. Of course, if you or your loved ones suspect a parcel for any reason, do not touch it, leave the area, and immediately contact local authorities. It is always best to alert authorities, even if you are unsure whether there is a true danger.

Protective Measures for an Explosion

Because most bombings occur in public places, your family should know what to do in the event of an explosion. As with any emergency drill, parents should practice the following tips with age-appropriate children and discuss what to do in the event of being trapped in or being near the scene of a bombing. Remember, the goal is to empower your children with knowledge, not to frighten them.

If your family is trapped in debris, you should:

Use a flashlight to signal your location to rescuers, if possible.

Avoid unnecessary movement so you don’t stir the dust.

Cover your nose and mouth with some sort of material that is nearby, to breathe through. Dense-weave cotton material acts as a good filter, or you may wet the material before breathing through it to help filter the dust.

Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear where you are.

Use a whistle to signal rescuers, if possible.

Shout as a last resort, only. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amount of dust.

newsImage via Flickr by Cliff

If your family is near the scene of an explosion, you should:

get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you. When the items stop falling, leave quickly. Watch for obviously weakened floors and stairways, and be especially vigilant about falling debris. Do not use elevators.

follow your family, job, or school emergency disaster plan for leaving and staying away from the explosion. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make any calls or texts. Do not return to the scene because you will increase the risk of danger for rescue workers and your family.

avoid crowds. Crowds of people may be the target of a second attack.

avoid unattended cars and trucks, as these may contain explosives.

do not stand in front of windows, glass doors, or other potentially dangerous areas, including damaged buildings. Move at least 10 blocks or 200 yards away from damaged buildings. Also remember to move away from sidewalks or streets that will be used by emergency officials or other people still exiting the building.

follow directions from people in authority, including police, fire, EMS, military personnel, school supervisors, or workplace supervisors.

call 911 once you are in a safe place, but only if police, fire, or EMS has not arrived to help injured people.

help others who are hurt or need assistance to leave the area if you are able to do so. If you see someone who is seriously injured, seek help. Do not attempt to manage the situation alone.

listen to your radio or television for news and instructions.

Terrorist Attack: Biological, Chemical, or Nuclear Attacks

Keeping your family safe from a biological, chemical, or nuclear attack requires more specific preparations, as you may need to remain in your home in the event of one of these attacks. It may be too late to obtain the materials necessary to keep your family safe after one of these types of attacks occurs, so FEMA has created checklists for families to do before these threats arise:

Protecting Yourself, Your Family, and Your Property

Build an Emergency Supply Kit. Include nonperishable food, water, a battery-powered radio, extra flashlights, and batteries.

For a chemical threat, also have a roll of duct tape and scissors in your Emergency Supply Kit, as well as plastic for doors, windows, and vents for the room in which you will be sheltered. Premeasure and cut the plastic sheeting for each opening.

For a nuclear threat, increase your disaster supplies to be adequate for up to two weeks, during periods of heightened threat.

Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family should know how to contact one another because it is possible that you will not all be together at the time of an attack. You should know how to get back together and what to do in the case of an emergency.

Plan meeting places, both within and outside of your neighborhood.

Designate an out-of-town contact number because local numbers may be unavailable.

Be familiar with emergency plans at work, daycare centers, and schools where your family spends time. If no plans are in place, volunteer to help create one.

Know your community’s warning systems and disaster plans.

For a nuclear threat, know your community’s evacuation routes. Ask local officials if any public buildings have been designated as fallout shelters. If none has been designated, make your own list of potential shelters near your home, workplace, and school. These would include basements or the windowless center area of middle floors in high-rise buildings, as well as subways and tunnels. If you live in an apartment building or high-rise, talk to the manager about the safest place in the building for shelter and about providing for building occupants until it is safe to go out.

Notify caregivers and babysitters about your plan.

Make plans for your pets.

For a chemical threat, choose an internal room for shelter. One without windows and on the highest level of your home is best.

Check with your doctor to be sure all immunizations are up to date. Children and older adults are especially vulnerable to biological agents.

Consider installing a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your furnace return duct. These filters remove particles in the air and will filter out most biological agents that may enter your house. If you do not have a central heating or cooling system, a portable HEPA filter can be used.

attacksImage via Navanti Group

Overall, communication between parents and children is vital to a successful family plan and a positive outcome after a terrorist attack. Families are better equipped to handle a terrorist attack if they discuss scenarios and plans before, during, and after an event so that everyone can ease their worries and fears.

Also, keep in mind that children can be involved in the process of creating a plan and making emergency kits. One suggestion is to design a scavenger hunt to make creating a family emergency kit more fun. Each child can be responsible for one item so that children understand they can be proactive about handling emergencies.

Most importantly, keep in mind that children are sensitive to parents’ emotions and reactions. If parents set a proactive tone for emergency preparedness, children are sure to follow. And, if you are feeling completely overwhelmed by preparing for all of the different types of terrorist attacks, follow the General Guidelines to get started.

General Guidelines for Preparing for a Terrorist Attack

terrorismImage via Masbury

Be aware of your surroundings.

Move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if your instincts tell you something is not right.

Take precautions when traveling.

Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior.

Do not accept packages from strangers.

Do not leave your luggage unattended.

Immediately report unusual behavior, suspicious or unattended packages, and strange devices to police or security.

Know where emergency exits are located in buildings that you frequently visit. Plan how to get out if an emergency arises.

Be prepared to function without services you typically rely on, including electricity, telephone, cell phone service, natural gas, gasoline pumps, cash registers, ATMs, and Internet transactions.

If you work or live in a large building, work with building owners or managers to be sure the following items are located on each floor of the building:

Portable, battery-operated radio with extra batteries

Several flashlights and extra batteries

First aid kits and manual

Hard hats and dust masks

Fluorescent tape to rope off dangerous areas

The unfortunate reality is that there have already been numerous terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. And there will be more. With counter-terrorism measures advancing every day, the hope is that our technology is capable of predicting attacks and even halting terrorists in their tracks. Preparing for a terrorist attack, and devising a response plan for various scenarios, is the best way to keep your family safe.

P.S. As a parent, it’s quite natural to worry over the safety of your child. But at the same time, it’s crucial to ensure that your child’s safety is guaranteed. Click here if you want a guaranteed way to protect your children from predators.

How To Protect Your Children – Keep Your Faith In God

October 19, 20150 Comments

Guidance for teaching your children to be sensitive to potential danger.

By Janel Breitenstein from FamilyLife

Sarah vividly remembers an evening nearly 40 years ago. It was the night her parents discovered that one of their closest family friends, a chosen leader in their local church, had been sexually abusing her.

Her family and his had spent time together every week and even went on vacations together. But one evening, exhausted from evading the pursuits of her abuser for the majority of the day, Sarah (not her real name) had enough. She refused to go to the friend’s home after church that evening, even at her father’s insistence.

Her parents protested because they thought she was being rude.

“I don’t care,” she said.

Then they warned of consequences.

“I don’t care. It doesn’t matter what you do to me. I’m not going in.”

Her mother and father proceeded into the house, humiliated by their 14-year-old’s behavior. Yet later that evening, her mother came into Sarah’s bedroom and asked directly if she had been touched inappropriately. The story of two years’ abuse, degradation, and humiliation poured out.

Unfortunately, far more victims have never told a soul. Not their husbands, their wives, their pastors, parents, or siblings.

Can this be prevented? The following ideas may protect your child from the tragedy of sexual abuse—and its devastating effects on generations to come.

1. Understand what an abuser looks like. Interested in what the profile might look like?

It could be anyone.

Nobody is beyond the power to abuse. Most of us can name at least one person whom we thought, for example, wouldn’t be subject to moral failure … only to discover how wrong we were.

This does not mean that you should live in fear and distrust. However, we should not love in foolishness. We are told to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

One of the pitfalls of the “Stranger Danger” campaign of the 1980’s was the message children received that a “stranger” would be wearing a trench coat, hat, and dark glasses: in essence, that children could identify people who were harmful to them. This is not necessarily the case and often an abuser is someone the child knows.

A more apt concept in The Berenstain Bears Learn about Strangers finds Mama Bear cutting apples for the cubs. One apple that looks gnarled on the outside is perfectly fine on the inside; but another that looks beautiful outwardly is full of worms.

2. “I believe you.” This is a crucial message to communicate. Imagine, for example, that your son or daughter is in a conflict, and you find another adult chastising your child. Rather than asking for the child’s version of the story, you proceed to punish. Now imagine that your child did nothing wrong in that situation and was mistakenly accused.

Your child thinks, If they believed another adult when I didn’t do anything wrong, what will happen when I think something is wrongWhat if it was my fault that this person touched me––or what if I misunderstood what just happened?

Children are far from innocent, and they often try to manipulate us. But they also must feel they will be heard and trusted. Early in life you can try to instill honesty and accuracy in their speech in the smallest communication, so that when it matters, the relationship is there. They can be trusted to tell the truth and you can be trusted to listen.

3. “You can believe me.” Jesus describes Himself as Truth (John 14:6) and Satan as the father of lies. Even simple, understandable, truthful explanations about the world establish a relationship of trust. When your children ask questions about sex, for example, do you pretend you don’t know what they’re talking about? Or, do you communicate that this is an embarrassing topic?

If authenticity is the policy, your children will feel more comfortable approaching you sooner should abuse take place. If you can’t talk about sex without looking ashamed or evasive, you can’t expect children to feel comfortable approaching you about questionable sexual activity.

4. Talk about it. Open communication is a key to stopping abuse before it happens. You have the ability to lovingly prepare your children for experiences you can’t anticipate by speaking of sex and other topics in healthy, secure ways. This not only gives your children confidence with you; it may also grant them confidence in the presence of a potential abuser.

Remind your children that they can always tell you if someone makes them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable—that you won’t be angry with them. Communicate respect for their bodies and help them feel comfortable and articulate about themselves by calling private parts by their proper names.

5. Be alert to signals or changes in behavior. Does a child demonstrate strange conduct or resist spending time with a particular person? Is he suddenly withdrawn or performing poorly in school?

Being careful not to discourage open communication, try to figure out why a child asks certain questions.  After you answer the question honestly, you might say, “That’s an interesting question. What made you want to ask that? I like to hear how you process things and how you think.”

A child’s artwork or premature knowledge of sexual terms may act as clues to their sexual experiences. They may also tip you off to someone who has been introducing inappropriate television programs or magazines to your child.

6. Know the patterns of a perpetrator. Many abusers begin by giving their potential victims unique privileges, gentle touch, or special gifts. This creates a sense of affection, making the victim feel set apart or special. As stated before, it also desensitizes them to further advances. Ask your children to tell you if they receive special gifts or attention.

7. Avoid situations of unnecessary risk. Without acting out of fear, or unreasonably keeping your children from life experiences and relationships, use discernment with your child’s activities. What will the atmosphere and activities be like at the slumber party? Will someone else be riding home with your child and the coach? Are you aware of your children’s location when they’re with friends or family? (By the way, establish an “open door” policy at your own gatherings.)

Thoughtfully, prayerfully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of your boundaries. Choose wisely and then leave the protection of your children in their Father’s capable hands.

8. Ingrain respect. Dan Allender’s invaluable work on the healing of abuse, The Wounded Heart, reported that 29 percent of sexual abuse occurs in relationship with a family member, and that 60 percent of abuse takes place with someone else known by the victim. Instilling respect of women (see 1 Peter 3:7) and a high value of the marriage bed to your children (see Hebrews 13:4) can proactively help prevent abuse––working to keep boys from becoming perpetrators and your children from becoming victims.

Even very young children have opportunities to stand up for weaker children, protecting them and showing them compassion. Boys in particular learn the underlying message of manners––respect––when they give girls special honor by opening doors for them, carrying heavier items, and performing physical chores (tasks otherwise known as chivalry). Girls simultaneously learn that they are worthy of respect and honor no matter their gender or physical strength, and that their bodies are precious gifts.

9. Don’t always believe the best. It is a well-founded biblical principle that we regard others with love and charity. But we also need to train our children that if someone makes them feel uncomfortable in any way––including those in authority or someone they know we like or respect––they can and need to actively, confidently resist that person and tell us.

A common mentality of any abuse victim involves thoughts like, That must have been a mistake. He didn’t mean to do that. I must have done something to make him treat me like that. I must be wrong. Teach children to trust their instincts, and to assertively draw boundaries.

In addition, instruct them that if someone tells them not to tell something which is uncomfortable or relates to their body, that is when it’s most important to tell you.

10. Pray for your children. Pray for their protection according to God’s will, and for the healthy development of their sexuality. Pray for increasing wisdom as you teach and guard them. Pray also that your children will not harm others and will enjoy the freedom God intends within the purity of a marriage relationship. Pray that if your children are in a dangerous situation, they will have wisdom beyond their years, that a predator will be quickly discovered, and that healing and God’s best will flow from even the worst of situations (see Genesis 50:20).

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

P.S. As a parent, it’s quite natural to worry over the safety of your child. But at the same time, it’s crucial to ensure that your child’s safety is guaranteed. Click here if you want a guaranteed way to protect your children from predators.

Child Abuse Among Children and Young People

October 19, 20150 Comments

Age appropriate sexual behaviour

We all know that children pass through different stages of development as they grow, and that their awareness and curiosity about sexual matters change as they pass from infancy into childhood and then through puberty to adolescence. Each child is an individual and will develop in his or her own way. However, there is a generally accepted range of behaviours linked to a child’s age and developmental stage. Sometimes these will involve some exploration with other children of a similar age. It can be difficult to tell the difference between age appropriate sexual exploration and warning signs of harmful behaviour. Occasionally we may need to explain to children why we would prefer them not to continue with a particular behaviour.

This is a chance to talk with them about keeping themselves and others safe and to let them know that you are someone who will listen. Disabled children may develop at different rates, depending on the nature of their disability, and they can be more vulnerable to abuse. Children with learning disabilities, for example, may behave sexually in ways that are out of step with their age. Particular care may be needed in educating such children to understand their sexual development and to ensure that they can communicate effectively about any worries they have.

It is important to recognise that while people from different backgrounds have different expectations about what is acceptable behaviour in children, sexual abuse happens across all races and cultures. Remember that each child develops at his or her own pace and not every child will show the behaviours described below. If you have any worries or questions about a child you know, talk to someone about it.

Pre-school children (0-5) years commonly:

  • Use childish ‘sexual’ language to talk about body parts
  • Ask how babies are made and where they come from
  • Touch or rub their own genitals
  • Show and look at private parts

They rarely:

  • Discuss sexual acts or use sexually explicit language
  • Have physical sexual contact with other children
  • Show adult-like sexual behaviour or knowledge  

School-age children (6-12 years) commonly:

  • Ask questions about menstruation, pregnancy and other sexual behaviour
  • Experiment with other children, often during games, kissing, touching, showing and role playing e.g. mums and dads or doctors and nurses
  • Masturbate in private

They rarely:

  • Masturbate in public
  • Show adult like sexual behaviour or knowledge


  • Ask questions about relationships and sexual behaviour
  • Use sexual language and talk between themselves about sexual acts
  • Masturbate in private
  • Experiment sexually with adolescents of similar age

NB. About one-third of adolescents have sexual intercourse before the age of 16.

They rarely:

  • Masturbate in public
  • Have sexual contact with much younger children or adults 

Warning signs of sexually harmful behaviour

One of the hardest things for parents to discover is that their child may have sexually harmed or abused another child. In this situation, denial, shock and anger are normal reactions. If it is not responded to quickly and sensitively, the effect on the whole family can be devastating. For this reason it is vital to contact someone for advice about what to do as soon as you suspect that something is wrong. The positive message is that early help for the child or young person and their family can make a real difference. Evidence suggests that the earlier children can get help, the more chance there is of preventing them moving on to more serious behaviour. It is important to be alert to the early warning signs that something is going wrong. If you are in this situation, remember that you are not alone. Many other parents have been through similar experiences, and, as a result, the child and family found the help they needed are were able to rebuild their lives. The first step is to decide that it would be helpful to talk it over with someone else.

Do you know a child or adolescent who:

  • Seeks out the company of younger children and spends an unusual amount of time in their company?
  • Takes younger children to ‘secret’ places or hideaways or plays ‘special’ games with them (e.g. doctor and patient, removing clothing etc.) especially games unusual to their age?
  • Insists on hugging or kissing a child when the child does not want to?
  • Tells you they do not want to be alone with a child or becomes anxious when a particular child comes to visit?
  • Frequently uses aggressive or sexual language about adults or children?
  • Shows sexual material to younger children?
  • Makes sexually abusive telephone calls?
  • Shares alcohol or drugs with younger children or teens?
  • Views child pornography on the internet or elsewhere?
  • Exposes his or her genitals to younger children?
  • Forces sex on another adolescent or child?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should talk to the child or young person and seek advice.

What you can do if you see warning signs

Create a family safety plan. Don’t wait for ‘proof’ of child sexual abuse. You can visit our family safety plan page for information and advice.

If you are concerned about the sexualized behaviours in a parent, cousin, sibling, friend, or neighbor, you should consider contacting the police or children’s services in your area, they can take action if appropriate. If you choose not to do that, care enough to talk to the person whose behaviour is worrying you.

Make sure everyone knows that it’s OK to talk with you about what may have already happened – that you love them and will help them. Click the links for additional resources or for advice on developing your Family Safety Plan,

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about sexual abuse, abusers and protecting children – watch our learning programme here.

P.S. As a parent, it’s quite natural to worry over the safety of your child. But at the same time, it’s crucial to ensure that your child’s safety is guaranteed. Click here if you want a guaranteed way to protect your children from predators.

Child Sexual Abuse Warning signs

October 19, 20150 Comments

What to look for in adults and children

What is considered child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse includes touching and non-touching activity. Some examples of touching activity include:

  • touching a child’s genitals or private parts for sexual pleasure
  • making a child touch someone else’s genitals, play sexual games or have sex putting objects or body parts (like fingers, tongue or penis) inside the vagina, in the mouth or in the anus of a child for sexual pleasure

Some examples of non-touching activity include:

  • showing pornography to a child
  • deliberately exposing an adult’s genitals to a child
  • photographing a child in sexual poses
  • encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
  • inappropriately watching a child undress or use the bathroom


As well as the activities described above, there is also the serious and growing problem of people making and downloading sexual images of children on the Internet. To view child abuse images is to participate in the abuse of a child. Those who do so may also be abusing children they know. People who look at this material need help to prevent their behaviour from becoming even more serious.


Warning signs in children and adolescents of possible child sexual abuse

Children often show us rather than tell us that something is upsetting them. There may be many reasons for changes in their behaviour, but if we notice a combination of worrying signs it may be time to call for help or advice.
What to watch out for in children:

  • Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects
  • Nightmares, sleeping problems
  • Becoming withdrawn or very clingy
  • Becoming unusually secretive
  • Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings and seeming insecure
  • Regressing to younger behaviours, e.g. bedwetting
  • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
  • Outburst of anger
  • Changes in eating habits
  • New adult words for body parts and no obvious source
  • Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts
  • Self-harm (cutting, burning or other harmful activities)
  • Physical signs, such as, unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy
  • Running away
  • Not wanting to be alone with a particular child or young person

Any one sign doesn’t mean that a child was or is being sexually abused, but the presence of several suggests that you should begin to ask questions and consider seeking help. Keep in mind that some of these signs can emerge at other times of stress such as:

  • During a divorce
  • Death of a family member or pet
  • Problems at school or with friends
  • Other anxiety-inducing or traumatic events

Physical warning signs

Physical signs of sexual abuse are rare, however, if you see these signs, take your child to a doctor. Your doctor can help you understand what may be happening and test for sexually transmitted diseases.


  • Pain, discoloration, bleeding or discharges in genitals, anus or mouth
  • Persistent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements
  • Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training

Signs that an adult may be using their relationship with a child for sexual reasons

The signs that an adult is using their relationship with a child for sexual reasons may not be obvious. We may feel uncomfortable about the way they play with the child, or seem always to be favouring them and creating reasons for them to be alone. There may be cause for concern about the behaviour of an adult or young person if they:

  • Refuse to allow a child sufficient privacy or to make their own decisions on personal matters.
  • Insist on physical affection such as kissing, hugging or wrestling even when the child clearly does not want it.
  • Are overly interested in the sexual development of a child or teenager.
  • Insist on time alone with a child with no interruptions.
  • Spend most of their spare time with children and have little interest in spending time with people their own age.
  • Regularly offer to baby-sit children for free or take children on overnight outings alone.
  • Buy children expensive gifts or give them money for no apparent reason.
  • Frequently walk in on children/teenagers in the bathroom.
  • Treat a particular child as a favourite, making them feel ‘special’ compared with others in the family.
  • Pick on a particular child.

P.S. As a parent, it’s quite natural to worry over the safety of your child. But at the same time, it’s crucial to ensure that your child’s safety is guaranteed. Click here if you want a guaranteed way to protect your children from predators.

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