What to do if you suspect a child is being abused

If you suspect or know that a child is being abused, call the child abuse hotline right away: 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873). If a child is in immediate danger, also call 911.

How do I know if a child is being sexually abused?

Children often disclose abuse through unusual behaviors or changes in behaviors, not words. Because many forms of abuse are not physically evident, adults should recognize certain behavioral cues as signs of potential abuse. Learn more about the signs of abuse.

What do I do if a child tells me they have been sexually abused?

Coming forward takes courage. If a child discloses abuse to you, believe them, listen carefully, then take action. Learn more about responding to sexual abuse.

What happens when I report child sexual abuse?

When you make a report to the child abuse hotline, the operator will listen to your report and ask questions to gather information. In Chicago, reports of child sexual abuse are referred to Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, where our child-friendly, trauma-informed services help children and families heal. Learn more about reporting abuse.

Who should report abuse?

Anyone can report suspected child abuse. Certain professionals are mandated reporters, meaning they are required by law to report suspected abuse. In Illinois, mandated reporters include school, child care and medical personnel, early intervention providers, members of the clergy and law enforcement.

How do I know that a child is telling the truth about abuse?

Children seldom lie about abuse. If a child discloses abuse, report what you know to the authorities; they will determine the facts and evidence. In rare instances when a child does lie about abuse, it can be an indication that something else is wrong.

If a child discloses sexual abuse, will there be physical evidence?

In many cases, there are no physical signs that sexual abuse has occurred. If there are signs, they may include redness, abrasions, lacerations, evidence of semen or sexually transmitted infections.

Why don’t children tell?

There are many reasons why children may not disclose abuse. Because most abusers have a close relationship with the child and his or her family, the child may worry about getting their abuser or themselves in trouble. Many abusers make threats to ensure that victims do not tell. Victims may also be ashamed or fear that no one will believe them. Remember, children often indicate something is wrong through behaviors, not words.

Can children recover from the trauma of abuse?

Yes. The most important things to help children heal from abuse are having supportive caregivers and access to appropriate resources, including ChicagoCAC’s services.

How does ChicagoCAC help children and families?

When a report of child sexual abuse is made in the city of Chicago, the child and family are referred to Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center. Our staff and partners ensure that families get the critical support and trauma resources they need. Learn more.

How can I do my best to keep my children safe?

As adults, we are responsible for protecting children. Learn more about preventing sexual abuse.