At some point in your life, you might encounter someone you suspect of child sex abuse. Sadly, it’s not that much of a long-shot. One-in-four girls and one-in-six boys are sexually abused in the USA. It’s a horrible and relatively common crime.
So, what should you do if you suspect someone of child sex abuse?
Before I answer my own question, let me answer a question you might be asking: Why is a fundraising blog talking about child sex abuse?
Well, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. To mark the occasion every year, I devote one blog post that will help you protect your loved ones and others from a nightmare crime. Fortunately, we can do something about this national tragedy. First, we need to educate ourselves about the problem. Then, we need to understand what action to take.
Because I’m not a lawyer, a member of law enforcement, a social worker, or a child-welfare worker, I contacted an expert to help me understand what we should do if we ever suspect an individual of child sex abuse.
First, in certain jurisdictions, you may have a legal obligation to report your suspicions if you hold a particular job such as teacher or healthcare professional. Furthermore, your organization might have reporting requirements as part of its employee policies. So, be sure to know the legal and policy obligations that come with your job.
Second, even if you’re not required by law or policy to report suspicions of child sex abuse, you are most definitely morally obligated to do so. Children are largely defenseless. It’s up to adults, any adult, to provide protection when needed.
Unfortunately, protecting children is sometimes easier said than done. For example, you may have a vague gut-feeling that a teacher is up to no good. But, with no evidence or even a concrete suspicion involving a particular child, it’s doubtful the authorities would do anything with a report.
However, if you do suspect that an adult is sexually abusing a particular child, particularly if you have any evidence (e.g., you’ve witnessed the adult taking the child away to a private room), then you need to take immediate action.
When you have a valid suspicion, contact your local police department, local child protective services agency, or your local child advocacy center (an independent social service agency). Or, better yet, contact them all.