- One in four girls and one in
seven boys are sexually molested before the
age of 18.
- The spiritual, emotional and physical effects
are devastating and are often long-term.
- Approximately one third of adult women in your church have been sexually molested at some time in their lives.
- 90% of sexually abused children are victimized by someone they know.
- Juveniles commit
43% of sexual abuse against children under six.
Our society pays a high
price for the tragedy of child abuse. Billions of
dollars are spent on medical and mental health treatment,
social services, education and lost productivity. Child
abuse victims are also more likely to be in abusive
The ND Alliance for Children’s Justice is providing
this guide for clergy so you can better
understand the complex problems associated with child sexual
abuse and how you can play a key role in preventing it from
The Alliance is a multi-disciplinary task force of
North Dakota professionals and parents whose vision is that
all adults will feel equal responsibility for the care and
protection of all children. The final goal being that no
child in this state will experience any form of child sexual
This publication highlights some important
information about child sexual abuse and how the church can play a crucial role in helping to prevent
it. Please refer to the website for additional information
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse is sexual
activity perpetrated on a child by an adult, an adolescent,
or an older child. Sexual abuse can be categorized as
non-touching or touching offenses. Remember, sexual abuse
is NEVER the child’s fault.
- Indecent exposure
- Frank discussions about
sexual acts designed to shock the child or arouse a
- Behaviors such as
voyeurism, exposure to sexual materials or letting a
child hear or watch sexual acts
- Fondling or any kind of
- Rape or attempted rape
- Using a child to create
What to Look For—Signs of
Children will rarely report
they are being sexually molested. Clergy,
staff and volunteers should be informed about certain
behaviors associated with child sexual abuse.
- Sexualized behavior, see
Understanding Children’s Sexual Behavior, by Toni
- Hostile or aggressive
- Fearful, withdrawn,
- Abuses alcohol/drugs
- Mature beyond
- Eating disorders
- Running away from home
In addition to the above
indicators, there are additional long-term consequences of
having been sexually abused as a child.
- Post-traumatic stress
- Low self-esteem
There are also a number of
medical complications that may be experienced by the child
and/or adult abused as a child.
- Reproductive problems,
vaginal infections and bleeding, venereal diseases,
pain, itching, swelling of genitals
- Hysterectomy before age 30
- Recurring complaints of
gastrointestinal pain/problems and headaches
- Trauma to breasts,
buttocks, lower abdomen, genital and rectal areas
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
A woman in a congregation
tells the minister that she is concerned about a rather
dramatic behavior change in her five-year-old daughter. The
little girl was always outgoing and happy, but over the past
few months, has become withdrawn and secretive. When asked
if she would like to tell her mother anything, tears welled
and she fearfully said, “No.” The previous day she had
touched her older brother’s genital area and used a sexual
term which she would not have been expected to know or
The minister, realizing that the behavior pattern of the
child strongly suggested child sexual abuse, encouraged the
mother to give assurance to the daughter that whatever she
told her mother would be believed, and that the mother
needed to know if anything was bothering her in order to
help her, even if she had been told to keep it a secret.
After further discussion the child did divulge, in her own
child’s language, that her father was molesting her. The
mother revealed this to the minister.
- Develop a child
protection policy and protocol, which includes screening
and background checks for staff and volunteers who work
- Provide child
sexual abuse prevention education to staff,
volunteers, and the congregation.
- Preach a sermon
or invite a local expert to inform members about their
role in preventing all forms of child maltreatment.
- Plan a special
worship service around the issue of protecting children
or the celebration of children and all who care for
- Attend training
seminars/conferences to stay well informed about child
- Initiate a mentor
program for all young people as they go through
the process of becoming full members of the
- Listen to and
- Report suspected
AS A COMMUNITY LEADER, YOUR CHURCH CAN:
- Host parenting classes or provide space for
a parenting support group
- Become involved in local child abuse prevention
- Support and recruit foster parents
- Promote more effective use of local resources
by publicizing them and supporting collaborative
- Create a latchkey after school program where
children will be closely supervised, receive
help with homework, be provided opportunities
to socialize and play games, and receive refreshments
Reporting suspected child abuse is required
of clergy, under North Dakota law. Emphasis
is placed on reporting suspected abuse. The
reporting person need not have positive proof,
but may merely suspect maltreatment of a child.
To file a report, contact the county social
service office in the county where you reside.
CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
sexual abuse happens to children from
all walks of life and all faiths.
abuse can affect people for the rest of
Attentive and loving supervision of
children prevents emotional
vulnerability. Vulnerable children are
more susceptible to the attentions of
If every adult
takes responsibility for the care and
protection of children, we can make North
Dakota free of child sexual abuse.
Alliance for Children’s Justice at:
Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota
ND Toll Free—1-800-403-9932