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Common Misconceptions

Misconception: Child abusers are usually strangers, deranged misfits who abduct children and use physical force to abuse them.

In the vast majority of cases—from 85 to 90 percent by some estimates—the abuser is a person the child knows and trusts. Rather than using force, abusers often manipulate the child into sexual acts gradually, taking advantage of the child’s limited experience and reasoning ability.

These abusers are not the drooling loners of the stereotype. Many are quite religious, respected, and well liked in the community. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, “to assume that someone is not a pedophile simply because he is nice, goes to church, works hard, is kind to animals, and so on, is absurd.” Recent research suggests that it is also wrong to assume that all abusers are male or that all victims are female.

Misconception: Children fantasize or lie about sexual abuse.

Under normal circumstances children lack the experience or sophistication in sexual matters to invent explicit claims of abuse, although some small children may become confused about details. Even the most skeptical of researchers agree that most claims of abuse are valid. Consider the book Sex Abuse Hysteria—Salem Witch Trials Revisited, which focuses on false claims of abuse. * This book admits: “Genuine sex abuse of children is widespread and the vast majority of sex abuse allegations of children . . . are likely to be justified (perhaps 95% or more).”

Children find it enormously difficult to report abuse. When they do lie about abuse, it is most often to deny that it happened even though it actually did.

Misconception: Children are seductive and frequently bring the abuse on themselves by their conduct.

This notion is particularly warped, since, in effect, it blames the victim for the abuse. Children have no real concept of sexuality. They have no idea of what such activity implies or of how it will change them. They are therefore incapable of consenting to it in any meaningful way. It is the abuser, and the abuser alone, who bears the blame for the abuse.

Misconception: When children disclose abuse, parents should teach them to refrain from talking about it and to ‘put it behind them.’

Who is best served if the child keeps silent about the abuse? Is it not the abuser? In fact, studies have shown that denial with emotional suppression may be the least effective way to deal with the trauma of abuse. Of the nine coping methods used by one group of adult survivors studied in England, the ones who denied, avoided, or suppressed the issue suffered the greater emotional maladjustment and distress in adult life. If you experienced a terrifying assault, would you want to be told not to talk about it? Why tell a child such a thing?


Allowing the child the normal reaction to such a terrible event, such as grief, anger, mourning, will give him the opportunity eventually to put the abuse in the past.

An Abused or Neglected Child/Teen

NOTE: The Following was taking from

The Center for Family Safety and Healing

655 East Livingston Avenue, Columbus, OH 43205

(614) 722-8200

Child abuse includes physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse and neglect. Protecting children from abuse and neglect is a community responsibility. Most adults want to help but are unsure of how to get involved. Figuring out what to do can be a difficult and confusing process. If you think a child is being abused or neglected, you should report it as soon as you become aware of it. Do not wait, as time can make a difference! If an incident has happened within the last 96 hours, an immediate medical assessment may be necessary.


It is important to know that these specific indicators may or may not be present in children who have been abused or neglected. Every child is different. Also, children display their feelings in many ways. Children who are experiencing emotional issues unrelated to abuse or neglect may display some of these same behaviors. If you have questions about your child's behavior or development, you should contact your primary care provider or pediatrician. Physicians are trained in child development and should be able to assist you in recognizing areas of concern.

Physical abuse is the non-accidental injury to a child. Possible signs of physical abuse are:

Physical Signs

  • Unexplained or repeated bruising

  • Unexplained burns

  • Other unexplained or repeated injuries

Behavioral Signs

  • Behavioral extremes (withdrawn, quiet, angry, immature behavior)

  • Excessive fear of parent(s), caregiver(s) or going home

  • Unusual shyness, wariness of physical contact

  • Frequent attempts to hide injuries

  • Depression, excessive crying

  • Behavioral problems, truancy or running away

  • Substance abuse

Sexual abuse is any act of a sexual nature upon or with a child. Possible signs of sexual abuse are:

Physical Signs

  • Unexplained or frequent pain, including stomach or genital pain

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

  • Pregnancy

  • Bruises or bleeding from external genitals, vagina or anal region

  • Genital discharge

  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothes

  • Frequent, unexplained sore throats, yeast or urinary infections

Behavioral Signs

  • Poor peer relationships, inability to relate to children of the same age

  • Behaviors not common in older children, such as thumb sucking, bedwetting, fear of the dark

  • Sudden changes in behavior

  • Promiscuous or seductive behavior

  • Aggression or behavior problems

  • Prostitution

  • Substance abuse

  • Avoidance of recreational activity

  • Sleep problems or nightmares

  • Sudden decline in school performance

  • In young children, an above normal focus on theirs or others' sexual organs

Neglect is the failure to act on behalf of a child. Possible signs of neglect are:

Physical Signs

  • Uncleanliness or poor hygiene, including lice, scabies, severe or untreated diaper rash

  • Untreated illness or injury

  • Unsuitable clothing, missing key articles of clothing, such as socks, shoes or a coat

  • Height and weight significantly below age level

Behavioral Signs

  • Constant hunger, tiredness or lack of energy

  • Begging or collecting leftovers

  • Unusual school attendance (frequent absence, lateness, coming to school early or leaving late)

  • Assuming adult responsibilities

  • Vandalism or behavior problems

Environmental Signs

  • Lack of food, heat or utilities in the house

  • Lack of adult supervision

  • Parent or caregiver does not appear to have the knowledge or skills about how to care for a child or has their own health concerns that interfere with parenting

Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior directed toward a child that damages their emotional well-being and self-esteem. Possible signs of emotional abuse are:

Physical Signs

  • Bedwetting

  • Frequent illness

  • Unexplained health problems, such as headaches, nausea or stomach pains

Behavioral Signs

  • Behaviors inappropriate for their age

  • Fear of failure, overly high standards

  • Mental or emotional developmental delays

  • Avoidance of recreational activity

  • Changes in mood or mood swings

  • Poor peer relationships, inability to relate to children of the same age

  • Attention-seeking behaviors



Online Articles

Child Abuse 'Neglect: Recognizing, Preventing, and Reporting Child Abuse


Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

11 Facts About Child Abuse

Child Abuse (KidsHealth®)

10 Signs of Child Abuse 'Neglect

The Role of Educators in Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect

Relevant Websites


TMedline Plus (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Child Welfare information Gateway (HHS)

Child Maltreatment Prevention

Kids Matter Inc.

Contact Support

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Respond and Refer

How to Report if You Suspect Abuse

In case of an emergency, or if a child indicates that they are afraid to return home, you should call local law enforcement immediately. In other cases, contact the appropriate child protective services agency, which is determined by the county in which the custodial parent(s) or guardian resides. 


For a directory of child protective services agencies, click here.

You should try to include the following information, although it is not required:

  • The name and address of the child you suspect is being abused or neglected

  • The age of the child

  • The name and address of the parent(s) or guardian

  • The name of the person you suspect is abusing or neglecting the child and the address, if available

  • The reason you suspect the child is being abused or neglected

  • Any other information which may be helpful to the investigation

Individual State Child Abuse Hotlines

If you cannot reach your local agency, call the 24/7 national hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD or other National Hotlines.

CAPS makes every effort to assure the accuracy of our hotline lists. If you find an error or omission, please let us know.


For individual county hotlines visit the Alabama Dept of Human Resources:


(800) 478-4444
State of Alaska Office of Children’s Services:


(888) SOS-CHILD (767-2445)
Arizona Child Protective Services:


(800) 482-5964
Arkansas Child Abuse Information:


For individual county hotlines visit California Department of Social Services:


For individual county hotlines visit Colorado Department of Human Services Division of Child Welfare:


(800) 842-2288
Connecticut Department of Children and Families:


(800) 292-9582
Delaware Services for Children, Youth and Their Families:

District of Columbia

(202) 671-SAFE (7233)
District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency:



(800) 96-ABUSE (962-2873)
Florida Department of Children and Families:


For individual county hotlines visit the Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Family & Children Services:


(808) 832-5300
Hawaii Child Welfare Services:


For individual county hotlines visit Idaho Department of Health and Welfare:


(800) 25-ABUSE (252-2873)
Illinois Department of Children & Family Services:


(800) 800-5556
Indiana Department of Child Services:


(800) 362-2178
Iowa Dept of Human Services:


(800) 922-5330
Kansas Child Protective Services:


(800) 752-6200
Kentucky Child Safety Branch:


For individual county hotlines visit the Louisiana Department of Social Services:


(800) 452-1999
Maine Child and Family Services:


For individual county hotlines visit the Maryland Child Protective Services:


(800) 792-5200
Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services:


(800) 942-4357
Michigan Children’s Protective Services:,1607,7-124-5452_7119—,00.html


For individual county hotlines visit the Minnesota Department of Human Services:


(800) 222-8000
Mississippi Child Protective Services:


(800) 392-3738
Missouri Department of Social Services:

(866) 820-KIDS (5437)
Montana Child & Family Services:


(800) 652-1999
Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services:


(800) 992-5757
Nevada Division of Child and Family Services:

New Hampshire

(800) 894-5533
New Hampshire Bureau of Child Protection:

New Jersey

(877) NJ ABUSE (652-2873)
New Jersey Department of Children and Families:

New Mexico

(800) 797-3260
New Mexico Children, Youth & Families:

New York

(800) 342-3720
(518) 474-8740
New York State Office of Children and Family Services:

Long Island:
Nassau County Department of Social Services:

Suffolk County Department of Social Services:

North Carolina

For individual county hotlines visit the North Carolina Child Protective Services:

North Dakota

For individual county hotlines visit the North Dakota Child Protection Program:


For individual county hotlines visit the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services:


(800) 522-3511
Oklahoma Child Protective Services:


For individual county hotlines visit the Oregon Department of Human Services:


(800) 932-0313
Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare:

Puerto Rico

(800) 981-8333
Administracion de Familias y Ninos:

Rhode Island

(800) RI-CHILD (742-4453)
Rhode Island Child Protective Services:

South Carolina

For individual county hotlines visit the South Carolina Department of Social Services:

South Dakota

For individual county hotlines visit the South Dakota Department of Social Services:


(877) 237-0004
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services:


(800) 252-5400
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services:


(800) 678-9399
Utah Department of Human Services:


(800) 649-5285
Vermont Department for Children and Families:


(800) 552-7096
Virginia Department of Social Services:


(866) END-HARM (363-4276)
Washington Department of Social and Health Services:

West Virginia

(800) 352-6513
West Virginia Bureau for Children and Families:


For individual county hotlines visit the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families:


For individual county hotlines visit the Wyoming Department of Family Services:

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