Child sexual abuse
If a life is in danger or a crime is happening now, dial Triple Zero (000).
If you have reason to suspect a child is experiencing, or is at risk of sexual abuse, contact:
- a Regional Intake Service (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
- the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre on 1800 177 135 or 07 3235 9999 (24 hours a day).
What is child sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse is when an adult, a stronger child or a teenager involves a child in sexual activity. Sexual abuse can include:
- having any kind of sexual contact with a child
- having sexual relations with a child under 16 years old
- talking in a sexually explicit way that’s not suitable for a child’s age
- sending obscene mobile messages or emails to a child
- persistently intruding on a child’s privacy
- showing pornographic material to a child or forcing them to watch a sexual act
- child prostitution.
Signs of sexual abuse
Children who’ve been sexually abused may show general signs of child abuse. They may also:
- know more about sexual activities than other children their age
- play in a sexual way
- have redness or pain around their mouth or private parts
- have torn, stained or bloody clothes, especially underwear
- often play games about power or control
- masturbate more than what is normal for their age
If a child shows any of these signs, you may need to act to keep them safe.
Protect a child from sexual abuse
You should always:
- know who is looking after your children
- listen to your children and believe what they say—children hardly ever make up stories about sexual abuse
- watch your child for signs of stress in a specific person’s company
- be aware of possible signs of grooming.
Grooming is the way sex offenders gain the trust of children before involving them in sexual activities.
Examples can be if someone:
- regularly offers to babysit for free or take a child on overnight outings
- separates a child from other adults or children
- buys a child very expensive or too many gifts
- insists on a physical show of affection such as kissing, hugging, wrestling or tickling even when the child clearly doesn’t want it
- is too interested in the sexual development of a child
- insists on time alone with the child with no interruption
- takes lots of pictures of children
- shares alcohol or drugs with younger children or teenagers
- shows their genitals to a child.
When you’re not with your child
You have a right to know your child is safe and to ask questions about what they’ll be doing and who’ll be looking after them.
People who work with children must:
- keep them safe
- have a Blue Card.
- be able to show you in writing how they plan to handle claims of sexual abuse
- offer activities that suit the age of the children
- look after all the children in their care.
Teach your child
Help your child to be safe without frightening them. You could tell them:
- that the parts of their bodies covered by underwear are private
- what the right names for these body parts are
- that they should let you know if anyone tries to touch their private parts
- who they can talk to if you’re not available.
If your child is not yet in school, you can:
- teach them about personal safety in simple language
- repeat the same rules often
- play ‘what if’ games to repeat the message.
If your child is in primary school, you can teach them:
- your family safety rules
- how to use the rules in a situation that could be dangerous.
You can teach your teenager to:
- think for themselves
- make good decisions
- be strong and confident.
Where to get help and advice
- In an emergency, phone Triple Zero (000).
- Phone your local police station about criminal matters related to child sexual abuse.
- If you have reason to suspect a child is experiencing, or is at risk of, sexual abuse refer to Reporting child abuse
- For general advice phone Child Safety Services on:
- 13 QGOV (13 74 68)
- (07) 3235 9999
- 1800 177 135 (free call).
- Phone Parentline on 1300 30 1300. It’s a free, confidential phone service that offers counselling and referrals (8.00am–10.00pm, 7 days a week).
- If you are an adult who has been a victim of child abuse phone the Adults Surviving Child Abuse Information Line on 1300 657 380 to talk to an experienced trauma therapist.
- Phone the ChildWise National Child Abuse Prevention Helpline on 1800 99 10 99 for advice around child abuse.
- The Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme provides adult survivors of child sexual assault with a non-threatening and anonymous way to officially register their experience with authorities.
- Read more information about child sexual abuse and how to report it:
- Child sexual abuse: Things you need to know (PDF, 2MB)
- Child sexual abuse: Things you need to know (RTF, 331KB)
- Read about care and support options for adult survivors of child abuse.
- The National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) advocates on behalf of children and young people and aims to prevent child abuse through their campaigns and programs.
Support is also available from: