What is child abuse?
Child abuse is an action, or lack of action in the case of neglect, that creates a risk of physical and/or emotional harm for the child. Sexual abuse can include manipulation and threatening of the victim, by the abuser, to engage in sexual acts and/or contact. Anyone in the child's life may inflict this risk, including family members, friends, peers, and/or authority figures. KRS 600.020 provides the legal definition of child abuse, neglect, and dependency in Kentucky.
Children disclose sexual abuse in different ways, depending on their age, developmental capacity, and many other factors. Young children may not always realize that what they are experiencing is abuse or have the words to describe it, and may, therefore, disclose accidentally, through
their behaviors or in conversation. As children
grow older, their desire for the abuse to end
may encourage them to tell a person outside
of the family, such as a best friend, teacher, or
sports coach. No matter how or when the child
discloses, it is essential that professionals are able
to investigate and assess the situation.
Why didn't my child tell me?
Abusers often use threats and manipulation to keep their
victims silent about the abuse. Children may also fear that their
families will be broken apart, that there will be negative consequences for the abuser, or that he/she did something wrong and will be in trouble for the abuse. Very young children may not know that what they are experiencing is abuse so they may not tell until they get older. Older children are often given privileges, attention, or gifts by the abuser
and may not want to lose these special things. Also, they may
love or like the person abusing them, even if they don't like
the abuse. There are many reasons that a child may not
disclose abuse, but that does not mean that the
disclosure is not truthful when the child
Is it better for
the child not to talk
about the abuse so he/she
can forget what happened?
Although many adults would be more comfortable not talking about sexual abuse with the children in their lives, it is essential that they do. By not talking, the adult is sending the message that the abuse should be secret and that the emotions surrounding it should be kept inside. By talking about the abuse calmly and openly, the adult can let the child know that they are not alone, that the
adult can care for the child, and that the
abuse was not the child's fault.
Why do children "recant" or take
back an earlier report of sexual abuse?
Disclosures of sexual abuse can often plunge a family into chaos and turmoil. The child who disclosed may believe that his/her disclosure, not the abuse, caused this turmoil or that their family does not believe them. There may be pressure from those around the victim to "get
back normal control" and so they may recant. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, and guilt often accompany sexual abuse and the
victim may believe that, by taking back the disclosure, these
feelings will be lessened. Recanting does not necessarily
mean that the disclosure was false or that the child was
lying, just that the victim may feel some
emotional or physical pressure.
What if my child has to go to court?
Is child sexual abuse more than touching?
Sexual abuse can take on many forms such as fondling, penetration, exposure of private parts, participation and/or viewing of pornography, and speaking to a child in a sexualized manner. All forms are serious and must be addressed by law enforcement, child protective services, and/or medical professionals.
process is complex,
and can be confusing
at times. Advocates can help
to guide victims and families in the
legal process. They may help victims and
their caregivers prepare to testify, meet with
the prosecutor, and become more comfortable with
the entire legal process. Preparing the child for court and
establishing a relationship with the child is important. If the
family of the victim is not allowed in the court room during the
testimony the advocate can be a friendly and supportive face in
the crowd for the child. If the child does have to testify, the
advocate can arrange appointments to see the
Regardless of the outcome of the
court case, it is important that
the victim has the
How can I find out about sex offenders in my area?
Sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement when they move or after their release from prison/jail. A list of sex of offenders registered in Kentucky can be accessed at: or by calling 866-564-5652.
At this number, an individual can register up to three zip codes to monitor and a phone number. When a registered sex
offender moves into and/or within those areas, the Kentucky State Police will notify the phone number provided.
Although the registration, phone notification, and website system is helpful, it is not 100% accurate. Even though there is a punishment if a convicted sex offender does not register, some offenders still do not. Also, some offenders "plead out" of their
cases and therefore may not have to register, if their plea agreement does not include a registerable offense.
*Persons convicted of sex crimes before July 15, 1994 are not required to register for those crimes.*