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City Views presents commentary from staff on the latest projects, initiatives, and successes.

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Feb 24

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Posted on February 24, 2017 at 3:04 PM by Clare Casey

By Nancy Vincent, Department of Housing and Human Services

As a community, we can and must work together to prevent the sexual abuse of children. One in ten children in the U.S. is sexually abused by the age of 18, although because so many cases are not reported, the numbers are likely higher.

How can we tell if a child has been the victim of sexual abuse?

Signs and Indicators of Sexual Abuse in Children

Excessive crying Failure to thrive
Sexually explicit play/promiscuity Extremely seductive behavior
Sleep disturbances Runaway, prostitution
Poor peer relationships Truancy, drop in grades
Depression/suicide attempts Increase in physical complaints
Enticing other children into sexual play Eating problems
Sexual knowledge Sudden change in behavior
Bed wetting Drug and alcohol abuse
Poor body image and self esteem Clinging/over dependence
Behavior problems Trust issues, phobias
Excessive masturbation Aggressiveness, hostility

What do you do after a child has told you that he/she was molested?

  • Listen to what the child has to say.
  • Do not ask questions or put the child on the spot.
  • Thank the child for telling and mention that it was the right thing to do.
  • Call the Fairfax County Child Protective Services Hotline (703-324-7400) any time, day or night.
  • Call the City of Falls Church Police, 703-248-5053 (TTY 711)

How can you protect children?

The Darkness to Light organization recommends the following five steps:

Step 1: Learn the Facts

  • 1 in 10 children in the U.S. is sexually abused by the age of 18. Because so many cases are not reported, the number may actually be higher.
  • Over 90% of sexually abused children are abused by someone known by the child or family.

Step 2: Minimize Opportunity

  • More than 80% of child sexual abuse incidents occur when children are in isolated, one-on-one situations with adults or other youth.
  • If you eliminate or reduce potential for children to be in isolated, one-on-one situations with adults or other youth, you dramatically reduce risk.

Step 3: Talk About It

  • One of the best protections against sexual abuse is our relationship with children.
  • Have open conversations with children about body safety, sex, and boundaries.

Step 4: Recognize the Signs

  • The most common symptoms of child sexual abuse are emotional or behavioral changes.

Step 5: React Responsibly

  • Understand how to respond to suspicions or reports of child sexual abuse.
  • Very few reports are false.

The City of Falls Church contracts with Fairfax County for Child Protective Services to provide support, to ensure the safety of our children, and to prevent further harm. For more information go to or call Child Protective Services at 703-324-7400 (TTY 703-222-9452). If you suspect your child is being abused, please call the City of Falls Church Police, 703-248-5053 (TTY 711).