Sexual Abuse Prevention - Prevent Child Abuse Iowa

Sexual Abuse Prevention

Reporting Abuse

Report child sexual abuse to the Iowa Department of Human Services at 1.800.362.2178.

If the child is in imminent danger, immediately call law enforcement to provide assistance to the child and then call DHS to report a suspected case of child abuse.

If you see physical signs of abuse, have your child examined by a professional immediately or call the police.

Para hacer un reporte de abuso de niños, llame al 1-800-362-2178. Visite éste página para más información sobre cómo puede reportar el maltrato de menores.

Sexual Abuse Prevention

As adults, it is our responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse by recognizing the warning signs and taking appropriate action to stop the grooming before the abuse occurs.

90% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows – such as a relative, teacher, coach, clergy member, neighbor or friend.

Child sexual abuse occurs in all populations. It happens to children in all socioeconomic and educational levels, across all racial and cultural groups, and in both rural and urban areas.

Prevent Child Abuse Iowa provides education to teachers, parents, community members, and youth organizations on sexual abuse prevention. Contact us for information on how you can get involved—or visit our training page to find out more about classes we offer.

Steps for Prevention

Know age-appropriate sexual behaviors: Although children’s sexual behaviors can make parents feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, knowing what behaviors are normal and how to respond sensitively and age-appropriately will help parents raise sexually healthy and safe children.

Know how to respond to sexual behaviors: As children mature they begin to explore sexuality through behaviors such as playing doctor, pretending to be mommy and daddy, and showing interest in where babies come from. Rather than responding to these situations in ways that make children feel they are doing something wrong, parents should view these opportunities as teachable moments.

Teach child body-safety skills: Although children cannot be expected to fight off a potential abuser, parents and caregivers should still teach children skills to help them avoid unwanted touches. Educating children about unwanted sexual touches can lead to increased confidence in refusing touches that make them uncomfortable and telling another adult.

Responding to Abuse

Victim warning signs

Children who are sexually abused often show no physical signs, but may display behavior indicators such as:

  • Fear of certain people or places
  • Trouble sleeping or having nightmares
  • Persistent, unexplained stomach illness
  • Mood swings, fear, rage or withdrawal
  • Acting out sexually or having sexual knowledge beyond their age/developmental level
  • Refusing to talk about a secret
  • Spending time with a new, older friend

Responding Appropriately to Disclosure

Most children do not tell if they have been sexually abused. If a child reveals to you that something inappropriate has happened, be prepared to respond appropriately. This is a rare, courageous moment for the child. Review treatment resources below or make an action plan for reporting what they tell you.