About people who sexually abuse children
People who sexually abuse children are more likely to be family members or people you and your child know well. They’re less likely to be strangers.
People who sexually abuse children might be adults, young people or older children.
People who sexually abuse children look and act like everyone else. They don’t look, sound or dress in a particular way.
People who sexually abuse children try to build trusting relationships with children or children’s families. They often come across as very supportive and caring and seem to have children’s best interests at heart. This is also called grooming.
All children have the right to grow up safe from abuse. Talking with children about sexual abuse and trying to protect children from people who commit sexual abuse is part of creating safe environments that help children grow and thrive.
When to be concerned that someone is involved in child sexual abuse
If you notice someone behaving in the following ways around your child or the child you’re caring for, this might be cause for concern about child sexual abuse.
- persistently tries to spend time alone with your child – for example, asks to babysit your child, or invites your child to stay overnight at their place or go camping with them
- frequently separates your child from other adults or children and seeks ‘special time’ with them
- is secretive and doesn’t share information with you about how they’ve spent time with your child
- tries to undermine your relationship with your child by doing things like telling your child you’re a bad parent
- buys your child treats or gifts, which might become more frequent and more expensive
- insists on kisses, hugs or other physical contact from your child – for example, frequent tickling games or other rough-and-tumble play that involves touching or getting your child to sit on their lap
- is unusually interested in your child’s sexual development or appearance or compliments your child excessively
- takes too many photos of your child
- friends your child on social media.
Not everyone who behaves in these ways should be kept away from your child. Some people are just very curious or care a lot about your family and your child.
What to do if you’re concerned that someone is involved in child sexual abuse
It’s important to trust your instincts. It’s a good idea to keep your child or the child you’re caring for away from the person you’re concerned about until you find out more.
It’s also important to:
- look for signs of sexual abuse in your child’s behaviour
- watch for suspicious behaviour in adults and older children who spend time with your child
- find out how your child feels about the person by asking questions like ‘Do you like the way cousin A acts around you?’ or ‘Mr G likes a lot of your Instagram posts. Does he follow you on any other social media?’
- encourage your child to share any concerns by asking questions like ‘Is anything worrying you?’ or ‘Are you OK?’
- contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service for advice by calling 1800RESPECT or 1800 737 732.
This can help you make the best possible decisions to keep your child safe.
If a child tells you about an experience of sexual abuse, contact the police by calling 000.