When a child is sexually abused, it’s nearly always by someone they know and trust. A parent, coach, aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling, teacher, grandparent.
That means, in most cases of child sexual abuse, you as the parent know and trust the person as well. That’s why the signs of a sexual predator may not be glaringly obvious. It’s no longer the creepy guy in an unmarked white van. It’s a person your child interacts with frequently.
Signs of an Adult Sexual Predator
Here are the warning signs an adult may be sexually abusing a child:
- They spend a lot of time with your child.
- They’re often with your child outside their normal role in the child’s life.
- They find ways to be alone with your child.
- They restrict your child’s access to other adults.
- They give gifts to your child for no reason at all.
- They talk openly with your child about their personal problems.
- They act like the child’s peer, rather than as an adult.
- They touch a child’s body in places that are unwanted.
- They talk about your child’s sexual development.
- They don’t have many age-appropriate relationships.
Signs of a Young Sexual Predator
At least one-third of the time a child is sexually abused, it’s a perpetrator under 18. Siblings, cousins, and foster children are the most common young predators. Even peers, like boyfriends, can be a perpetrator.
Here are the warning signs a minor may be sexually abusing a child:
- They have an overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.
- They show or talk about sexual material with younger children.
- They seek to be around much younger children.
- They take a younger child to “secret places.”
- They frequently play “doctor” or other provocative play.
- They routinely touch or cuddle a young child who doesn’t want to be touched.
- They repeatedly expose their genitals to a younger child.
- They’re a victim of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse themselves.
How to Report Child Abuse
If something feels off, DON’T IGNORE IT. REPORT IT. Trust your gut and don’t brush away those hesitations.
To report a suspected case of child abuse, find your state’s reporting hotline.