Signs That an Adult May Be At Risk to Harm a Child
Someone you care about may be acting in ways that worry or confuse you. The behaviors below may indicate a possible risk of sexual abuse to a child, but may also be a way for this adult to ask for help.
Many people with sexual behavior problemsi believe that others already suspect and often wish someone would ask what’s going on or advise them where to call to get help. Remember, you can start a conversation by pointing out harmful impacts on a child without accusing someone of abusive intentions.
Do you have concerns about someone you know in these areas of daily life?
- Misses or ignores social cues about others’ personal or sexual limits and boundariesi?
- Often has a “special” child friend, maybe a different one from year to year?
- Spends most of his/her spare time with children and shows little interest in spending time with someone their own age?
- Encourages silence and secrets in children?
- Links sexuality and aggression in language or behavior, e.g. sexualized threats or insults, like “whore” or “slut”?
- Makes fun of children’s body parts, describes children with sexual words like “stud” or “sexy” or talks again and again about the sexual activities of children or teens?
- Masturbates so often that it gets in the way of important day-to-day activities?
- Has an interest in sexual fantasies involving children and seems unclear about what’s appropriate with children?
- Looks at child pornographyi or downloads/views Internet pornographyi and is not willing to show whether children are involved?
- Asks adult partners to dress or act like a child or teen during sexual activity?
- Has been known to make poor decisions while misusing drugs or alcohol?
- Justifies behavior, defends poor choices or harmful acts; blames others to refuse responsibility for behaviors?
- Minimizes hurtful or harmful behaviors when confronted; denies harmfulness of actions or words despite a clear negative impact?
What You Can Do If You See Warning Signs
- Create a Safety Plan. Don’t wait for “proof” of child sexual abuse.
- Look for patterns of behavior that make children less safe. Keep track of behaviors that concern you. This Sample Journal Page can be a helpful tool.
- See our Let’s Talk Guidebook for tips on speaking up whenever you have a concern.
- If you have questions or would like resources or guidance for responding to a specific situation, visit our Online Help Center, http://GetHelp.StopItNow.org.
Remember, the most effective prevention takes place before there’s a child victim to heal or an offender to punish.