What to do if you witness or strongly suspect child
sexual abuse


Call 911. Immediately. It’s that simple. Have the courage to do what’s right.


The Penn State/Jerry Sandusky case has been a clear example of how NOT to deal with witnessed incidents, reports and/or suspicions of child sexual abuse. The careers and reputations which have been ruined pale in comparison to the young lives severely damaged by the seemingly “good people” who did nothing.  Educated, professional people chose to take the easy way out and look the other way and the number of victims climbed unabated for years.


Forget about company “protocol.” Forget about “chain of command.” This is a moral responsibility which all adults have for all children. Bottom line: A child’s safety is far more important than hurting someone’s feelings in your church, ruffling feathers in your family or “causing a ruckus” in your neighborhood.


Call 911. It’s simple, but often not easy. Ninety percent of sexually abused children know their abuser, and that usually means someone in their family, a family friend, possibly a respected member of the family’s social circle such as a clergyman, coach or family doctor. If we’ve learned anything from the pedophile priest and Penn State scandals, it is this: child sexual abusers come in every race, adult age range, nationality, religion, economic station and  educational level. Too often we think of pedophiles as the sweaty, creepy man in the trench coat who hangs out at the local playground. More often than not, it’s a family member, a trusted family friend or neighbor; someone who is a trusted, loved member of this child’s world.


No doubt about it, the repercussions of “dropping the dime” on someone are very real. It often divides families, breaks up marriages and ruins friendships. A confirmed case of child sexual abuse has tremendous ramifications on everyone around the child. None of this compares with the lifelong damage done to the child who is sexually abused and then ignored or not believed.


Call 911. It may be the hardest telephone call you’ve ever made, but when you look at it from the child’s point of view, it’s the only alternative you have.

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