It’s not always easy to spot sexual abuse because perpetrators often take steps to hide their actions. Signs that lead up to abuse are often called red flag behaviors. These red flags make you question the interactions that you see between an adult and a child. They can also be called grooming behaviors. Grooming is when a perpetrator sets the stage for eventually abusing. Grooming includes building trust with the child, alienating, and even creating fear and dependency. It’s important to listen to your instincts. If you notice something that isn’t right or someone is making you uncomfortable—even if you can’t put your finger on why—it’s important to report.
Keeping children safe can be challenging since many perpetrators who sexually abuse children are in positions of trust. Statistics say that 9 times out of 10 the perpetrator is someone that a child knows and trusts.
It’s not always easy to identify child sexual abuse—and it can be even more challenging to step in if you suspect something isn’t right. If a child tells you that someone makes them uncomfortable, even if they can’t tell you anything specific, listen.
If you aren’t sure if something should be reported or not, talk to your local law enforcement or child protective services. You can also call the U.S. Center for SafeSport or USA Swimming Safe Sport Staff and they can help you figure out if this is something that must be reported and to where.
Remember, you are not alone.