For Friends & Family

If You Suspect Abuse

What to Do If You Suspect Abuse

If you think your child may have been sexually abused, it is okay to talk to your child about it.

You may first want to access some resources to learn more about child sexual abuse, such as The National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet at

It is important to remain calm in speaking to children who may have been sexually abused. You can ask children directly if anyone has touched their bodies in a way that they did not like or has forced them to do things that they did not want to do.

If you are concerned about talking to your child about abuse, you might want to seek help from your child’s pediatrician or a mental health provider who is knowledgeable about child sexual abuse.

–Excerpt from the Child Sexual Abuse Committee of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Talking To Your Child About Abuse


Parents are surrounded by messages about child sexual abuse. Talk shows and TV news warn parents about dangers on the Internet, at school and at home. However, parents don’t get much advice on how to talk to their children if they are concerned that sexual abuse is occurring.
Talk to your child directly.

  • Pick your time and place carefully!
  • Have this conversation somewhere that your child feels comfortable.
  • DO NOT ask your child about child abuse in front of the person you think may be abusing the child!
  • Ask if anyone has been touching them in ways that don’t feel okay or that make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Know that sexual abuse can feel good to the victim, so asking your child if someone is hurting them may not get the information that you are looking for.
  • Follow up on whatever made you concerned. If there was something your child said or did that made you concerned, ask about that.


  • Ask in a nonjudgmental way, and take care to avoid shaming your child as you ask questions.
    • ”I” questions can be very helpful. Rather than beginning your conversation by saying “You (the child) did something/said something that made me worry…” consider starting your inquiry with the word “I.” For example: “I am concerned because I heard you say that you are not allowed to close the bathroom door.”


  • Make sure that your child knows that they are not in trouble, and that you are simply trying to gather more information.
  • Talk with your child about secrets.
    • Sometimes abusers will tell children that sexual abuse is a secret just between them. They may ask the child to promise to keep it secret.
    • When you talk to your child, talk about times that it’s okay not to keep a secret, even if they made a promise.

Build a trusting relationship with your child.

  • Let your child know that it is okay to come to you if someone is making them uncomfortable.
    • Be sure to follow up on any promises you make—if you tell your child that they can talk to you, be sure to make time for them when they do come to you!
  • All children should know that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable or if someone is touching them in ways that make them uncomfortable and that they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
    • Let your child know that you won’t get angry at them if they tell someone “no.” Children are often afraid that they will get into trouble if they tell someone not to touch them.
  • Teach children that some parts of their body are private.
    • Tell children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, OR if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
    • Let children know that they will not be in trouble if they tell you about inappropriate touching.
      • Make sure to follow through on this if your child does tell you about inappropriate touching! Try not to react with anger towards the child.

Our Promise

Shattered Canvas is dedicated to providing resources that are credible, up to date, and timely; assisting families and friends who know or suspect that they know a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This information is intended to give you an understanding of childhood sexual abuse, education and support in increasing your knowledge, how to assist or respond to a disclosure of childhood sexual abuse. We are committed to provide you with support.

If you have any questions regarding the resources, need additional information, assistance in finding help, wish to speak or connect to a survivor, or just want a listening ear contact us at  All contact requests will be held in confidence and never shared with anyone. We value your strength and courage in reaching out, there is HOPE!

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