Preventing Abuse - Warning Signs

Preventing Sexual Abuse: Understanding Warning Signs in Abuser Behavior


As adults we are responsible for keeping children safe. By knowing the warning signs and what actions to take, you have the opportunity to prevent sexual abuse-and to help children who are being abused. Below are warning signs and behaviors of potential abusers, by understanding these signs you may be able to help prevent abuse.

Yellow Light Behaviors: Concerning & Inappropriate


  • Children being uncomfortable or scare around a specific adult or older youth
  • Frequently initiating time alone with a child
  • Frequently walking in on children in the bathroom
  • Hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child-even when she/he does not want the physical contact or attention
  • Seeming overly interested in a child
  • Showing favoritism to one child, such as giving special gifts

Actions to Take


  • Increase monitoring with random drop-ins and observations.
  • Provide ongoing support to the child.
  • Set clear boundaries and give reminders of appropriate interactions.

Red Light Behaviors: Harmful & Abusive


  • Coercing a child to fondle him/herself or someone else
  • Exposing oneself to a child
  • Fondling or running against a child's genitals, butt, or breasts
  • Inappropriately viewing private behaviors of a child (e.g., undressing, showering)
  • Taking sexually explicit or suggestive photos of a child, or showing pornography or sexually suggestive images to a child
  • Talking in a sexually explicit or suggestive way to a child person, over the phone, texts, or Internet

Actions to Take


  • Call the child abuse hotline: 800-922-5330
  • If there is immediate safety concerns also call 911