Mercy Medical Center Sioux City


Being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 53 percent and the likelihood of arrest for a violent crime as an adult by 38 percent.

(National Children's Alliance)

My child recently told me about some inappropriate touching by his babysitter. What should I do? I don't want to make a big deal out of this if he is lying to me.
Believe your child. You are responsible for your child's safety. You need to protect him from further abusive incidents. Parents and others who suspect abuse or inappropriate touching need only suspect something has happened before they report it to the Department of Human Services (DHS) and law enforcement. It is their job to investigate and determine what has happened.

Assure your child that he is right to tell you about the experience. Support your child. Do not yell or shame him. Tell him that you are sorry about what has happened to him and that it was not his fault.

What should I do if I think my child or another child has been abused?
If you suspect a child has been abused, you should report it to the Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-362-2178 in Iowa. As a voluntary reporter, you do not need all the facts. You need to have only a reasonable suspicion that a child has been harmed to make a report. All reports are confidential and you are free from liability.

What happens when I call the Child Abuse Hotline?
Your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office and law enforcement officials will be notified. The DHS will begin an assessment if the following criteria have been met: the victim is a child; there are allegations of abuse; and the person alleged to have committed the abuse is a caretaker of the child. If the criteria are not met, law enforcement (the county sheriff's department or local police department) will still investigate the allegations.

Typically, who is the child abuser?
There is no one "type" of abuser. However, children usually are not abused by strangers. More commonly, children know and trust the people who abuse them. Abusers may be family members, friends of the family, or babysitters. They can be rich, poor or middle-class, male or female, young or old. They can be of any race or religion and can work in any profession. You cannot tell simply by looking at a person if he or she is a child abuser.

How do I protect my child from being abused?
It is important to have open communication with your child. Talk to your child about body safety. Explain that his or her body belongs only to him or her. Children need to know that it is their right to say "no" to anyone who tries to touch them. When choosing a babysitter, gather as much information about that person as you can. Meet that person and make sure your child is comfortable with that person. Know your child's friends and the friends' parents, especially if your child spends time with them. Remember, it is rarely a stranger who abuses a child, so do not focus only on stranger safety when you talk to your child about abuse. Believe your child. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse.

How do I know that my child isn't lying or making up stories about being sexually abused?
Look at your child's age and his or her knowledge regarding what they have told you. Then ask yourself: Where would my child have learned about the activity he or she has told me about? Is your child saying things that he or she could otherwise have no knowledge of? Remember, children often are afraid to tell anyone that they've been sexually abused because the abuser may have threatened them or because they fear they'll be punished for what happened.

What are some of the signs that a child may have been abused?
These are some of the behaviors a child may exhibit. They may indicate abuse, but are by no means definite proof that abuse has occurred.

  • Extreme changes in behavior, including being withdrawn or more aggressive
  • Recurring nightmares or disturbed sleep patterns
  • Regression in behavior, such as bedwetting or thumb-sucking
  • Torn or bloodied underwear
  • Vaginal or rectal bleeding, pain, itching or discharge
  • Unusual interest in or knowledge of sexual matters or expressing affection in ways inappropriate for a child of that age
  • Fear of a person or an intense dislike of being left somewhere or with someone
  • Other behavioral signals, such as disruptive behavior, withdrawal, running away, delinquent behavior or failing in school