The YMCA is committed to preventing and responding to reported cases of child abuse.

If you need resources beyond what is included here, or to see a copy of our Keeping Youth Safe Policies Manual, please contact our Certified Praesidium Guardian at

Praesidium was started more than 20 years ago in response to a request from a youth-serving organization where a volunteer sexually abused a child participant. Y-USA is proud to partner with Praesidium to provide training to YMCA staff and volunteers to prevent abuse from happening within our programs, as well as provide resources to our community to help add another layer of protection.

Praesidium recently released a series of parent resource videos that review how abuse occurs, warning signs to be aware of, and how to respond.


Abuse & Warning Signs

Talking to Your Child

How to Respond


In these 10 podcast episodes Meghan Hurley Backofen provides caregivers with 10 Tips for Sexual Abuse Prevention. She discusses much of the misinformation caregivers have that put children at greater risk for sexual abuse trauma. She also identifies what children need to know to be a "least likely" victim. This class is based on her work with sexual abuse survivors and extensive knowledge of sexual abuse victimization. Caregivers will feel empowered after learning specific strategies in how to talk with children about this difficult topic and how to respond if sexual abuse is suspected. This podcase is an excellent resources for parents who want to share Meghan's book "Who's the Boss of this Body" with their child.

Tip 1: Why Kids Need to Know About Sexual Abuse

Tip 2: Know Who Sexually Offends

Tip 3: Understanding the Grooming Process

Tip 4: Secrets Are Not Safe

Tip 5: Who's The Boss Of This Body

Tip 6: Make CSA Prevention Part of Your Everyday Parenting

Tip 7: Know the Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

Tip 8: Know How to Respond

Tip 9: Knowing the Risks and Protective Factors

Tip 10: Raising Resilient Kids

For more information about Meghan, visit River Bridge Trainers

The Monique Burr Foundation for Children has a free online learning series related to child abuse, bullying, exploitation, and other types of child victimization called "Let's Talk about Prevention."

Emerging Trends in Child Sexual Exploitation: Protecting Children Online

Social Media & Emerging Tech: Motivating Mindful, Empathetic & Responsible Use to Prevent Digital Abuse

More from the Monique Barr Foundation for Children's series called "Let's Talk about Prevention"


Information for Parents of Young Children

Even very young children can learn skills to help keep themselves safe from sexual abuse, but it is often up to parents and primary caregivers to help them learn what they need to know. Here are some important things you can teach your child to stay safe.

Teach Your Children About Their Bodies

  • Names of all parts of their bodies. Talk to your child about the proper names for body parts, and use the proper name for private parts in that discussion. This will give your child the correct words to use when they need to tell you anything about their body, like an injury or rash or other problem in that area.
  • Rules about appropriate physical touch. Children understand the idea of rules. They know there are rules about hitting and biting, rules about playing nicely with others, and rules about being safe, like wearing seat belts. So, as you teach these rules, just add rules about appropriate physical touch. Say things like, "Never let other people touch your private parts," or "Never let anyone make you touch their private parts either."
  • What to do if someone tries to break the rules. Your children need to know what to do when someone breaks the rules about touching them. They need to know:
    • What to say to someone who breaks the rules about touching,
    • To move away from someone who is breaking the rules about touching, and
    • To tell you or another adult if someone breaks the rules about touching.
  • Teach your child to say, "No!" Or "No! Don't touch my private parts." Or "My body is private. You can't touch me there." Or "Leave me alone." Or simply "Don't do that." Teach your child to say this to other children as well as adults. Practice saying phrases like these with your child.
  • Teach your child to move away from anyone who is breaking the rules about touching. Tell your child that it's ok to get out of someone's lap or pull away from a hug, even if an adult tells or asks you to sit on their lap or hug them.
  • Teach your child to tell you or another trusted adult, like a teacher or caregiver, if someone breaks the rules about touching them Keep telling someone until they respond and does something about it.

How to Recognize Warning Signs in Your Child

Now let's talk about what you can do if someone is breaking rules about touching your child. No one knows your child better than you. So, as parents and primary caregivers, watch for warning signs, listen for warning signs, and follow up when you see or hear warning signs.

If something is wrong, you may see a sudden change in your child's behavior, or you may hear unusual comments. If you see or hear these things, follow up. Find a relaxed time to talk one-on-one with your child.

Responding to Inappropriate Behavior or Touch Your Child Reports

If you child tells you about inappropriate behavior or you witness it, such as someone who is too physical with them or who makes them uncomfortable, ask them to give you an example. If the interaction was inappropriate, but not actual abuse - talk with their teacher or caregiver. Specify your concern and check back with your child and with the teacher. Abuse can be very private and embarrassing, so keep in mind that your child may not say anything at all.

How to Respond if Your Child Tells You About Sexual Abuse

Your response plays a big role in how your child understands the abuse and how they recover. If you find yourself in a situation where your child (or one anyone else, for that matter) confides in you that they have been sexually abused by a teacher, family member, youth, coach, or other trusted adult, follow these four steps:

     Step 1: Listen.

  • Do your best to stay calm and let the person talk. Don't pry but you can ask a few questions that will help you understand what happened.

     Step 2: Reassure.

  • The person may be scared, angry, confused and crying. You can reassure them with a few simple comments like:
    • "I know how hard this is to talk about." "You are very brave for bringing this out."
    • "Don't worry, you are doing the right thing by letting someone know." "This isn't your fault. You've done nothing wrong."
    • "I'm very sorry this has happened to you."

     Step 3: Protect.

  • Make sure the person is safe. Do not let the accused person have any further contact with them and tell the victim-survivor you will do everything you can to keep them safe and/or supported. Let them know you must share what they have told you with others who can help.

     Step 4: Report.

  • Write down as quickly as you can everything the person shared with you in as much detail as possible, using the person's actual words, not your own interpretation. To report concerns or suspected abuse, call your local police department. 

It's up to us as adults to do all we can to prevent child sexual abuse. It's up to all of us, especially parents and primary caregivers, to create safe environments for children. Teaching them about their bodies, recognizing warning signs, and responding to yours and your child concerns are important first steps.

This information is designed to help you talk to your child in situations where there is a possibility that they might reveal information about inappropriate boundaries they have experienced with an adult or another youth.

It may be difficult to do but it's important to try to stay calm when you speak with your child. Your demeanor will communicate more than your words. Children can be traumatized by emotional, angry or accusatory reactions.

Things to consider before talking with your child about sensitive subjects:

  • Timing and atmosphere are very important. Choose a calm, unhurried, private time to talk with your child.
  • Before beginning this type of conversation, be sure you're ready. Be calm, emotionally controlled and confident. You want to communicate to your child that you are open to discussing this topic and that you can handle whatever they need to tell you. 
  • If this is difficult for you to talk about, practice first with a friend, your spouse, or in a mirror.
  • Use simple, conversational language, gauged to your child's level of understanding.
  • Do not make the talk scary or gloomy. Self-protection is an issue to discuss with children on a regular basis. Conversations such as this should be a positive learning experience for children so that they feel comfortable talking about their bodies. This also increases the changes that your child will seek your advice in the future. Remember, "If you can't talk about it, you can't protect it."
  • If you child shares difficult information, stay calm. Do no say, "Why didn't you tell me?" Do let the child continue to talk. Say that you are proud that they found a way to get help. If you are at all agitated, it may be best to wait until you have a chance to contact a local resource to continue the discussion. Tell your child, "I'm really proud that you've shared this with me, and I think we should continue this discussion when we can get some extra help from a counselor who has helped other children with these things. How does that sound?"

How to begin:

  • Start the conversation casually. "How was your day?" Or "What did you do at school today?" Or "It's nice to have a chance to sit and talk for a minute, isn't it?"
  • Identify the circumstances in question. "How is everything going at camp?" "What is your favorite thing to do there?" "What is your least favorite thing to do?" "Has anyone made you feel uncomfortable?" Then "Remember that if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable you should tell mommy, daddy, a teacher or other grown up you trust." And "You know it's very important that if anything like that happened to you that you tell me right away, right? That way I can make sure you are safe."
  • Questions if you and your child want to continue to talk.  "Tell me more, I'm listening." Your child may be uncomfortable so you will want to do what you can to put them at ease. Sitting close, using a calm voice tone, giving a hug or keeping your arm around them will help. You can also say something like, "Honey, you know I love you very much and I'm concerned that you might be upset about something. Can you tell me what you're thinking?" If your child stops talking or gets upset, continue comforting them.
  • If your child does disclose that something happened: "I'm really glad you told me about this. You did the right thing by telling me. I know you are upset by you know I am here for you."
  • After the conversation write down notes about the conversation while it is fresh in your mind. 

It can be hard to know what to do to help a friend, family member, or student who is a survivor of abuse or exploitation. Victims of abuse and/or exploitation may experience a range of emotional responses after an incident. Please read below for some helpful hints for parents/families or partners/friends of those who have experienced abuse and/or exploitation. Here's how you can help:

What to say to a survivor:

  • I'm sorry this happened to you
  • It wasn't your fault
  • Thank you for telling me
  • I'm always here if you want to talk
  • Can I do anything for you?

What parents and families can do:

The process of recovering from abuse and/or exploitation takes time. As a family member, your help during this process is essential. Survivors need a great deal of support and caring as they begin to address and survive a very frightening and sometimes violent experience. Families can help by:

  • Listening and be available
  • Believe and do not judge
  • Recognize that recovery takes a long time
  • Respect the decisions that the survivor makes
  • Be gentle, sensitive, and respectful of the survivor's wishes for closeness and affection
  • Find your own support

What NEVER to say to a survivor:

  • It was your fault.
  • You could have avoided it had you...
  • It's been so long! Get over it!
  • You wanted it.
  • You were asking for it.
  • It's not that big of a deal; it happens to lots of people.
  • I don't believe you.

What friends and partners can do:

Friends and partners play a key role in both preventing abuse and exploitation from occurring as well as lending support to a survivor. They are often the first people in whom a survivor might confide. Here are a few things to keep in mind to support your friend:

  • Believe your friend/partner. People rarely lie about sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, or harassment.
  • Listen to your friend/partner and concentrate on understanding their feelings.
  • Ask how you can help.... and do it.
  • Offer to accompany your friend/partner in seeking medical attention, counseling, or reporting to law enforcement.
  • Help the friend/partner regain a sense of control by supporting them in making decisions about whom to tell and how to proceed.
  • Remind your friend/partner that sexual violence is NOT their fault!
  • Offer shelter or companionship so that they don't have to be alone.
  • Be available and supportive.

There's no "right way" to heal from trauma. Be there to listen, to care, and to help!

Recovery from psychological trauma is often a difficult and gradual process. When a trauma survivor takes direct action to cope with problems, they often feel a greater sense of personal power and control. Positive coping actions are those that help to reduce anxiety or other distressing reactions and improve the situation in a way that does not harm the survivor further.

Positive coping methods can include:

  • Learning about trauma and it's effects
  • Talking to another person for support
  • Practicing relaxation methods
  • Challenging negative thoughts and beliefs
  • Increasing positive and enjoyable activities
  • Calling a therapist for help
  • If Only I Had A Green Nose, by Max Lucado
    • Theme: Self-esteem, self-acceptance, peer pressure, bullying
    • Age range:  K - 8th grade
    • Summary:  Punchinello is a Wemmick who falls into the trap of peer pressure. Once he stops visiting his maker, he becomes desperate to get a green nose like everyone else. The popular green nose then changed to red, then blue, and so on. Punchinello becomes tire of trying to fit in an becomes sad. His friend, Lucia, lets him know that his maker asks about him every day. He decides to go back to see his master, Eli, and he helps Punchinello be the Wemmick that he made him to be.


  • Impatient Pamela Calls 9-1-1, by Mary Koski
    • Theme: Calling for help, patience, and knowing important information
    • Age range:  1st - 4th grade
    • Summary:  This book teaches a very important lessons about when to call 911 for help. It also stresses the importance of learning pertinent information such as your home address. Throughout, the book stresses the importance of being patient and waiting to call 911 until there is truly an emergency.


  • Little Monkey's One Safe Place, by Richard Edwards
    • Theme: A safe place for children
    • Age range:  K - 3rd grade
    • Summary:  Little monkey searches through the jungle for the one place where he can be safe. He found his one safe place in his mother's arms. This book can help you talk with children about safety, whether it is in the arms of a parent/guardian or in the arms of someone else. This book helps adults work with kids on helping them locate a place where someone makes them feel secure and loved.


  • My Body is Private, by Linda Girard
    • ​​​​​​​Theme: Appropriate Touching
    • Age range:  1st - 5th grade
    • Summary:  A mother-child conversation introduces the topic of sexual abuse and ways to keep one's body private. The book respects readers' intelligence by using the proper terminology for genitalia and the generic term "bottom" to mean the buttocks. This book is a good teaching tool for discussion of a serious topic. IT is one that all ages would find beneficial. Gray areas such as tickling are explored. Tickling can be fun, but it can also go too far where the one being tickled is not enjoying it. That is another example of when to demand that certain "touch" or tactile activity be stopped. The children are well within their rights to do so at any time. Hugs and kisses are described as generally being welcome and acceptable, but children should not be forced to kiss or endure being kissed by someone who makes them feel uncomfortable.


  • Something Happened and I'm Scared to Tell, by Patricia Kehoe
    • ​​​​​​​Theme: Sexual Abuse
    • Age range:  1st - 4th grade
    • Summary:  This book takes an honest approach to the subject and, more importantly, emphasizes that the blame for sexual abuse belongs to the perpetrator, not the victim. Many victims have been groomed to believe the opposite and need this message. This book is a good resource for school counselors and for parents/guardians.


  • The Right Touch, by Sandy Kleven
    • ​​​​​​​Theme: Appropriate Touching
    • Age range:  1st - 4th grade
    • Summary:  This book gives tools for parents/guardians to facilitate discussions with their children. The book addresses bad touch and good touch, private parts, and telling parents/guardians or other trusted adults if someone makes children feel uncomfortable. Be aware that the book includes an illustration of the mom and son looking at a book and their book has a picture of a little boy and girl naked so that they can identify "private parts."


  • The Trouble with Secrets, by Karen Johnson
    • ​​​​​​​Theme: Secrets/ Follow up tot discussing good  touch/bad touch
    • Age range:  1st - 4th grade
    • Summary:  This book uses concrete examples to help children learn how to decide which secrets should be kept and which should be told. This is an appropriate book to read with young children, who need to understand the difference between a good secret and a toxic secret. It helps children realize they are not alone, and that not all secrets are fun, and that some even need to be shared with a trusted adult.


  • Who Is a Stranger and What Should I Do?, by Linda Walvoord Girard
    • ​​​​​​​Theme: Strangers and what children should do in different situations
    • Age range:  3rd - 6th grade
    • Summary:  This book discusses both strangers that do not pose a threat and those who may make children feel uncomfortable. More importantly, the book describes specific steps that children can take in various situations such as when children are approached by a stranger, when children see strangers in playgrounds, when strangers call by phone or ring the doorbell. In addition, the book describes some "tricks" that strangers may use to lure children into talking with them or going somewhere with them. In all situations, children receive specific advice for keeping themselves safe. For younger children, this book will be best received, and its suggestions best reinforced, ir read with a parent/guardian.


  • Your Body Belongs to You, by Cornelia Spelman
    • ​​​​​​​Theme: Touching
    • Age range:  K - 2nd grade
    • Summary: This is an introduction to talking about physical boundaries with children. The kids start to learn about touching without having to hear about "bad" people or scary things. Additionally, it gives the parent/guardian and child a common vocabulary to use in their early discussion. The book encourages children not to keep secrets if they are approached and touched inappropriately or made to touch someone else against their will. Private parts are rightfully defined as the parts of the body one's underwear and bathing suits cover. The book stresses what to do if the touch is neither wanted nor welcome and that it is perfectly all right not to want to be touched in certain ways.