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Reporting Child Sexual Abuse: When and How to File

Child Protective Services finds evidence of child sexual abuse during a claim every nine minutes in the US. About 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 are victims of sexual abuse at the hands of adults.

Child Protective Services finds evidence of child sexual abuse during a claim every nine minutes in the US. About 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 are victims of sexual abuse at the hands of adults. The child’s community, family members, loved ones and friends are critical in stopping sexual abuse and exploitation. Learn when and how to report child sexual abuse in California to help end this crime. If you believe your child is a victim of sexual abuse, speak with a qualified California child sexual abuse lawyer as soon as possible to learn your legal options.

Signs of Child Sexual Abuse – When to File a Report

It may not be easy to come forward with a case of suspected child sexual abuse, but it is important for the wellbeing of the child. Acting quickly could save a child’s life. It could save someone from further physical, emotional and psychological trauma. The signs of sexual abuse can look different from case to case. The age of the child and the circumstances of the abuse can also alter the symptoms. If you spot any potential red flags for sexual abuse, report it immediately.

  • Physical warning signs such as sexually transmitted diseases
  • Sexual behaviors that are inappropriate for the child’s age group
  • A child’s emotional distress, withdrawal, depression or anxiety
  • Regression, such as wetting the bed again
  • A child not wanting to be alone with someone
  • Child pornography on someone’s computer or in someone’s home
  • A child coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse
  • An adult admitting to sexually abusing or exploiting a child

You do not have to wait until you have evidence of child sexual abuse to report your suspicions to authorities in California. While evidence may help move the case along, Child Protective Services or law enforcement can still act to protect the child in question without proof. As soon as you suspect child sexual abuse, report it to the right people, even without evidence. It is best if you have some type of sign or symptom of child sexual abuse you can describe to the authorities in your report, however. Include all the information you have about the situation. Then, cooperate with the investigation.

How to File a Child Sexual Abuse Report in California

Calling Child Protective Services is typically appropriate if the suspected abuser is the child’s family member, parent, caregiver or legal guardian. Child Protective Services is a federal organization that intervenes in cases of child abuse and neglect in the home. County Child Protective Services divisions take calls and reports 24/7. Call your county’s Child Protective Services division using the correct phone number from the directory.

The division will investigate the case and may intervene to protect the child when appropriate. This may involve removing the abuser from the home or placing the child in foster care. Child Protective Services will typically oversee a case it accepts for 18 months to ensure the well-being and safety of the child. Anyone with concerns regarding potential child sexual abuse may contact Child Protective Services. However, many professionals who work with children have a legal obligation to report their suspicions. This includes teachers, counselors, health care workers, social workers, daycare staff members and members of the clergy. If you are a mandated reporter, you must lawfully report suspected child sexual abuse to the authorities.

If the suspected abuser is not a family member or relative of the child, you can call the police at 911 to report abuse instead. Law enforcement and Child Protective Services often work together to resolve cases of child sexual abuse since it is a crime in all 50 states. The police may ask you questions and follow up with you later. The police may find enough evidence of abuse to make an arrest. In these situations, Child Protective Services generally steps in to relocate and/or protect the child. You may file a child sexual abuse report with both entities if desired. The most important thing is that you file.

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

Learn more about Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.