How to report abuse

As adults we have the responsibility to protect the children around us. To report abuse, contact your local law enforcement and the Department of Child Safety.   Arizona Child Abuse Hotline 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445).

How to protect your child

Talk to you Child.  Let your child know he/she can tell you anything and you will not be angry or over-react. Keep the lines of communication open.  

Body Safety Rules
  • Use the correct name for private body parts.
  • No one is forced to hug, kiss, or be touched – We are the bosses of our bodies!
  • We don’t look, touch, or play games with other people’s privates.
  • When someone says ‘no’ or ‘stop’, we listen.
  • Happy surprises are fun, but no one should ask us to keep a secret, even a small one.
  • It is always right and never too late to tell if someone breaks a body safety rule.

Signs & Symptoms of Abuse

Signs and symptoms of abuse can vary by the individual as well as by the type of abuse they have sustained. Child abuse can take many forms, which can often occur at the same time. In many cases, child abuse is done by someone the child knows and trusts. If you suspect child abuse, report the abuse to the authorities.


A child who is being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. In fact, the child may have an apparent fear of parents, adult caregivers or family friends. That’s why it’s vital to watch for red flags, such as:

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears or a sudden loss of self-confidence
  • An apparent lack of supervision
  • Frequent absences from school or reluctance to ride the school bus
  • Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn’t want to go home
  • Attempts at running away
  • Rebellious or defiant behavior
  • Attempts at suicide

Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse and can vary. Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs.

Physical abuse signs and symptoms
  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns
  • Injuries that don’t match the given explanation
  • Untreated medical or dental problems
Sexual abuse signs and symptoms
  • Sexual behavior or knowledge that’s inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection
  • Blood in the child’s underwear
  • Statements that he or she was sexually abused
  • Trouble walking or sitting or complaints of genital pain
  • Abuse of other children sexually
Emotional abuse signs and symptoms
  • Delayed or inappropriate emotional development
  • Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
  • Social withdrawal or a loss of interest or enthusiasm
  • Depression
  • Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause
  • Avoidance of certain situations, such as refusing to go to school or ride the bus
  • Desperately seeks affection
  • A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school
  • Loss of previously acquired developmental skills
Neglect signs and symptoms
  • Poor growth or weight gain
  • Poor hygiene
  • Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs
  • Taking food or money without permission
  • Eating a lot in one sitting or hiding food for later
  • Poor record of school attendance
  • Lack of appropriate attention for medical, dental or psychological problems or lack of necessary follow-up care
  • Emotional swings that are inappropriate or out of context to the situation
  • Indifference
Parental behavior

Sometimes a parent’s demeanor or behavior sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent who:

  • Shows little concern for the child
  • Appears unable to recognize physical or emotional distress in the child
  • Denies that any problems exist at home or school, or blames the child for the problems
  • Consistently blames, belittles or berates the child and describes the child with negative terms, such as “worthless” or “evil”
  • Expects the child to provide him or her with attention and care and seems jealous of other family members getting attention from the child
  • Uses harsh physical discipline or asks teachers to do so
  • Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance
  • Severely limits the child’s contact with others
  • Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child’s injuries or no explanation at all

Although most child health experts condemn the use of violence in any form, some people still use corporal punishment, such as spanking, as a way to discipline their children. Any corporal punishment may leave emotional scars. Parental behaviors that cause pain or physical injury — even when done in the name of discipline — could be child abuse.

Child Abuse FAQs

What should I do if I suspect a child is being abused?
Call both local law enforcement and the Department of Child Safety when abuse is suspected. Arizona Child Abuse Hotline 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445)    
What do I do if a child tells me they have been sexually abused?
  • Stay calm and listen carefully. Encourage the child to speak freely, but do not ask detailed questions about the abuse.
  • Reassure the child. Tell the child that you believe him or her, that telling you was the right thing to do, and that he or she has not done anything wrong.
  • Take action. Call the DCS hotline immediately: 1-888-767-2445. Also call local law enforcement.

It is not your responsibility to investigate abuse, interview the child or get all the facts. Just contact the authorities with what you know or suspect so that children and families get the support and care they need.  

How do I know a child is telling the truth about abuse?
Children seldom lie about abuse. If a child discloses abuse, report what you know to the authorities; they will determine the facts and evidence. In rare instances when a child does lie about abuse, it can be an indication that something else is wrong.  
Why don’t children tell?
There are many reasons why children may not disclose abuse. Because most abusers have a close relationship with the child and his or her family, the child may worry about getting their abuser or themselves in trouble. Many abusers make threats to ensure that victims do not tell. Victims may also be ashamed or fear that no one will believe them. Remember, children often indicate something is wrong through behaviors, not words.  
Can children recover from the trauma of abuse?
Yes. Most children are very resilient. The most important things to help children heal from abuse are having supportive caregivers and access to appropriate resources.  

Internet Safety

Child sexual abuse happens online, too. As adults, we can prevent abuse by staying informed about children’s online activities and maintaining open communication.

Prevent online abuse

Preventing child sexual abuse begins with open communication. Ensure that your children know that they can come to you if anything makes them uncomfortable. Other ways to prevent online abuse include:

  • Demonstrate interest in your child’s online activity by using the internet with them
  • Keep computers in high traffic areas of your home like a living room
  • Use privacy settings and parent controls
  • Monitor browsing history and let your children know you are monitoring their internet use.
  • Set rules and limits for when and how long kids can be online, and consider posting the rules or a pledge by the family computer.
  • Be aware of who your child talks to online – be their Facebook friend and follow them on Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat
  • Make sure their address, email, cell #, etc. are not published.
Recognize the signs

Abuse most often starts with “grooming,” a series of manipulative behaviors that escalate over time. Signs that a child is being groomed online can include:

  • spending an excessive amount of time on the device that can access the internet
  • becoming angry when he/she cannot use the device
  • withdrawing from friends and family
  • Minimizing the screen or turning off monitor when others enter the room
  • Making or receiving calls from unknown numbers
  • Receiving gifts through the mail such as a bus ticket, cell phone or webcam

For Survivors

  • Sexual assault does happen, and it is a time that is frightening, confusing and generally full of emotions for the victim/survivor. Each individual has the right to accept or refuse sexual contact at his or her discretion; and no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.
  • Both males and females have equal ability and responsibility to control their sexual behavior and actions. (The survivor is not responsible for the assailant’s actions.)
  • Sexual assault is a violent crime and is often premeditated.
  • Each survivor of sexual assault is a separate individual having distinct and separate needs and should be treated accordingly. There is no uniformly accepted “normal” reaction to sexual assault.
Remember, YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME, even if:
  • Your attacker was an acquaintance, date, friend or spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, parent, sibling, guardian, other relative, professor, coach, or even employer.
  • You have been sexually intimate with that person or with others before.
  • You were drinking or using drugs.
  • You froze and did not or could not say “no” or were unable to fight back physically.
  • You were wearing clothes that others may see as seductive.
  • You said “yes” but later said “no” and were not listened to.
Self-Care for Survivors

When learning to survive a traumatic experience, taking care of yourself is very important. Preventing undue stress and emotional over-load must be your priority. Here is a list of things that might be helpful for you:

  • Get support from friends and family – try to identify people you trust to validate your feelings and affirm your strengths and avoid those who you think will deter your healing process.
  • Talk about the assault and express feelings – choose when, where, and with whom to talk about the assault, and set limits by only disclosing information that feels safe for you to reveal.
  • Use stress reduction techniques – strenuous exercise like jogging, aerobics, walking; relaxation techniques like yoga, massage, music, hot baths; prayer and/or meditation.
  • Maintain a balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible and avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, sugar, and nicotine.
  • Discover your playful and creative “self”. Playing and creativity are important for healing from hurt. Find time for noncompetitive play – start or resume a creative activity like piano, painting, gardening, handicrafts, etc.
  • Take “time outs.” Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax and rejuvenate – especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.
  • Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing, healing activity. Try to find short periods of uninterrupted leisure reading time.
  • Consider writing or keeping a journal as a way of expressing thoughts and feelings.
  • Release some of the hurt and anger in a healthy way: Write a letter to your attacker about how you feel about what happened to you. Be as specific as you can. You can choose to send the letter or not. You also can draw pictures about the anger you feel towards your attacker as a way of releasing the emotional pain.
  • Hug those you love. Hugging releases the body’s natural pain-killers.
  • Remember you are safe, even if you don’t feel it. The sexual assault is over. It may take longer than you think, but you will feel better.


The Navajo County Family Advocacy Center offers education on keeping children safe.  This is a free public service for schools, civic organizations, church groups, and business and professional organizations throughout Navajo County.

Sample Topics:
  • Who we are and what we do
  • Body safety
  • Protecting your children
  • Building a body safety circle
  • Sexual grooming
  • Sex trafficking
  • Who is a sexual offender?
  • What to do if a child discloses
  • Teach toddlers about private parts
  • Educating and empowering
  • Reducing the risk of sexual abuse

You can make a difference.

You can make a difference.