Take Action

adults stepping upAdults must have the courage to take action when something seems wrong—whether it involves our children or someone else’s.

If You Suspect Child Sexual Abuse

If you suspect that a child is being, or has been, sexually abused, call Vermont’s 24-hour Child Protection Line: 1-800-649-5285. 

Try to have as much information on hand as possible, including:

  • The names of the child’s parents/caretakers;
  • The child’s name, date of birth, address, school or child care provider; and
  • The nature of your concerns.

If You Notice Inappropriate Behavior

It can be difficult to identify behavior that is inappropriate, but not necessarily sexual abuse. You may see or hear something that is unsettling or has some kind of sexual energy.  A situation may make you uneasy or just not feel right and though you have no reason to believe that sexual abuse has happened, you are still concerned.

For example:

  • You discover a teacher has been exchanging emails and text messages with your 14-year-old son, without your or the school’s knowledge.
  • You overhear an adult male using  sexually-explicit language around your 12-year-old daughter.

When faced with a troubling situation, ask yourself these questions:  Does this make me uncomfortable? Does it seem odd? Would it concern someone else? 

Remember, inappropriate behaviors may be part of the grooming process. While confronting these behaviors can be difficult, the well-being of children must always come first.

Situations You Might Encounter

Below are a few examples of situations you may encounter and ways you might respond. As you are thinking about how you might respond in a given situation, consider the following questions: What would I need to do to protect my children? What could I do to help protect other children? Should I talk directly to the person who is behaving inappropriately?

Scenario 1.

You’re looking for a child care provider for your son. You visit a provider’s home based on a friend’s recommendation and get a funny feeling about the provider.  Trust your instincts. Look for another provider.

  • Call the Child Care Consumer Line at 1-800-649-2642 to find out more information about the provider and report any concerns.
  • Call your local Community Child Care Support Agency who can help you find a provider. Ask to speak to the child care referral specialist.
Scenario 2.

An uncle is playing with his niece in a way that makes you uncomfortable. (e.g., he continues to tickle her, in spite of her obvious discomfort and requests for him to stop).

  • Address the situation directly with the uncle when it happens.
  • Pay attention to the ongoing behavior of the uncle. Supervise your children when he is around.
  • Talk to the girl’s parents about your concerns.
Scenario 3.

You are monitoring your daughter’s emails and come across sexually-explicit emails between her and a teacher. The teacher sent naked pictures of himself to your daughter and asked her to send naked pictures of herself to him.

  • Call DCF’s Child Protection Line immediately to report the situation: 1-800-649-5285.
  • DCF will work with law enforcement to address the situation.
  • DCF will help you figure out next steps, including getting support for your daughter.
Scenario 4.

Someone interacts with your child in a way that crosses boundaries (e.g., a coach offers your child an unauthorized ride, a bus driver gives special treats to only your child).

  • If it feels safe and appropriate to do so, talk to the person directly about his or her behavior.
  • Contact the person’s place of work (e.g., school, other child-serving organization) to report the behavior.  
  • Talk to your child about the situation.
  • If you are still concerned about the situation, call DCF at 1-800-649-5285.
Scenario 5.

You are worried about a situation involving someone else’s child. For example: a camp counselor is spending time with a child outside of their role or a teacher is having sleepovers with a student.

  • Contact the person’s place of work to report your concerns.
  • Ask them what they are going to do about the situation.
  • Talk to the child’s parents to express your concerns.
  • Restrict that person’s access to your children.
  • Talk to your children.
  • If you are still concerned about the situation, call DCF at 1-800-649-5285.