Child sex abuse

1. Make time to talk with your child every day

Stop what you are doing and really listen. Talk about the good things that happen and the things that worry them. Let them know they can talk to you at any time and there is nothing so bad that they can’t tell you. It is also important they do not keep secrets about things that worry them. Show the child respect, believe and listen to the child/young person and assure him/her of that.

2. Talk with your child about how to be safe

Start from an early age. Talk about what being safe means and what it feels like. Help children to know body signals that tell them when something is wrong or they don’t feel safe e.g. shaky legs, sweaty palms and bad butterflies in the tummy. Teach them to name their feelings and to tell you when they feel confused or scared. To only be places and around people they feel safe

3. Teach your child about his/her body

Teach children:

  • That their whole body is private. It is not OK for others to touch their private parts (those covered by their underwear), or for them to touch others’
  • How to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ in a loud voice to any touching they do not like or want
  • To tell parents, guardians, teachers and trusted adults about it straight away
  • Unwanted touching should never be kept a secret
  • the correct names for parts of their body, including sexual parts so they are better able to talk about them
  • To recognise appropriate touching and inappropriate touching
  • That adults are not always right. Teach them to trust their feelings and not to keep secrets.
  • Explain that while abuse by strangers does happen, most sexual abuse is by someone a child knows and trusts.

4. Build strong boundaries for your children

Help your child to make a list of adults they feel safe with. They might have up to 5 people they can contact if they need to. Be led by who your child feels safe with. Review the list often and make sure your child knows how to contact them. Make sure people are happy to be on your child’s safety network.

5. Create safety networks for your children

Help your child to make a list of adults they feel safe with. They might have up to 5 people they can contact if they need to. Be led by who your child feels safe with. Review the list often and make sure your child knows how to contact them. Make sure people are happy to be on your child’s safety network.

6. Teach children how to be safe in public places

Teach children to avoid risks away from home, including:

  • Not going off alone
  • Being alert to what’s going on around them
  • Running to where you are, or to a group of people if a stranger approaches them.

If they walk to school make sure they:

  • Always walk with others
  • Keep close to fences and away from the road
  • Go into the nearest shop or front yard of a house if they are scared. If really scared, knock on the door and ask the person to call home but don’t go inside.
  • Always make sure you can see your children when you are at a park or playground. Always go with them to the toilet.
  • Teach children about risky situations rather than dangerous people. An abuser might not seem scary or could be someone they know.

7. Teach children how to be safe online and with phones

The online world is risky for children. Make sure they know how to use the internet and mobile phones safely, including:

  • Not sharing personal information
  • Understanding that people in chat rooms may not be who they seem
  • Telling you straight away if someone says or sends them something sexual
  • Not agreeing to meet new online friends
  • Not taking photos of themselves to share
  • The risks of using webcams.
  • If they get phone calls or texts that make them confused or scared, make sure they don’t respond. Keep the number so you can tell the police if needed.

8. Be aware of older people around children

Be concerned if an adult or older child: – Often wants to spend time with young children rather than adults or children their own age – Doesn’t respect a child’s personal space. They might ask sexual questions or ignore a child when they say ‘no’ to being kissed, touched or tickled – Talks about sex or tells sexual jokes in front of children – Shows sexual pictures to children – Talks about a child’s developing body, makes fun of their private body parts or refers to children in sexual terms eg ‘sexy’, ‘seductive’ – Seeks a special friendship with a child or wants to be alone with them – Tells children to keep secrets – Is too generous with affection or gifts – Shares alcohol or drugs with children.  

9. Watch out for dangerous situations around children

Some abusers ‘groom’ children for sexual abuse and build the trust of families so they can access children. They may target vulnerable families by offering help and support. They might target isolated or lonely children who respond well to special attention. Watch how children react to others and don’t make them be around someone they are not comfortable with.

10. Look for possible signs of child sexual abuse

Children exposed to sexual attention often change how they behave. They may have physical signs or they may act in ways that are not usual for them. They might: – Be red or sore around the mouth or genitals for no obvious reason – Seem to know more about sex than is usual for their age – Become more clingy, wet the bed or have sleep problems and nightmares – Do drawings which show sexual body parts or being hurt by others. They might also act this out with their toys – Get upset or scared when people talk about bodies or sex – Become withdrawn and compliant, or angry and destructive – Hurt themselves or take big risks – Start having problems at school or not want to go.   Some of these things can also be caused by other things in your child’s life. Talk with your child often and don’t ignore changes that seem out of character.


Sexual abuse has a big impact on a child’s ability to trust adults to keep them safe, and to relate to others. They can feel scared, angry or helpless because they can’t control what is happening to them. The child will feel lonely because they can’t tell anyone.

They may need help to deal with the effects of the abuse. As children become adults it can affect their intimate relationships and make them feel worthless, anxious and depressed.


The penalty for child sexual crime in Australia is up to 25 years imprisonment together with a $442,830 fine.

There are petitions to increase the prison terms and fine for child sex offenders in Australia.


Child sexual abuse can be prevented and stopped. Everyone can help make sure children are safe.

People in the community can also report their concerns. It is important to do this even if you think it is not your business or you don’t want to get involved. You could stop a child being harmed and help a family get support.

If you suspect a child is being abused, call the authorities. They keep your details confidential.

While this post provides important information about how to protect children against sexual abuse, it may be necessary to confirm with your authorities about child protection laws in your country.