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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.

How do


tell about

sexual abuse?

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

courtroom beforehand.


Regardless of the outcome of the

court case, it is important that

the victim has the

opportunity to

celebrate 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 offenders registered in Kentucky can be accessed at: or by calling


         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.* 

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