Abuse Prevention Education

Child abuse and neglect can endanger or impair a child’s physical or emotional health or development. We have the power to stop it and understanding the issue is the first step.

Abuse Prevention Education


Child abuse and neglect can endanger or impair a child’s physical or emotional health or development. We have the power to stop it and understanding the issue is the first step.


NEGLECT Neglecting or refusing to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, emotional nurturing, health care, or adequate supervision. 

PHYSICAL Causing or threatening to cause a non-accidental physical or mental injury.

EMOTIONAL A pattern of verbal assaults – constant criticism, insults, and the withholding of love. 

SEXUAL Committing or allowing to be committed any illegal sexual act, including incest, rape, indecent exposure, prostitution, or allowing a child to be used in any sexually explicit visual material.

BULLYING Unwanted, aggressive behavior of a peer towards another child that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.



Most child abuse and neglect is not a one-time event, but more often occurs in a pattern over time. Abused children are often subject to more than one form of abuse. Signs common to all forms of abuse include:

  • Fear of parents, other adults, or other peers; fear of going to a certain place
  • Withdrawal, depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders/ problems
  • Emotional and behavior extremes, including acting out or aggression toward peers, pets, other animals
  • Immaturity or delays in development
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Poor self-image and self-care, lack of confidence
  • Sudden absenteeism, decline in school performance
  • Self-destructive behavior or attitudes, including suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, running away, recklessness

The YMCA strives to protect our children from all forms of abuse. The YMCA of Greater Richmond and the YMCA of the USA with its partner organization, Praesidium, have worked together specifically to increase awareness of ways to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.

Sexual Abuse Warning Signs (in addition to the above)

  • Refuses to talk about a secret he/she has with an adult.
  • Develops a special relationship with an older friend that may include special gifts, unexplained money, or privileges.
  • Inappropriate/adult-like knowledge, drawings, or play about sexual behavior.
  • Physical ailments to include sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections.


How Sexual Offenders Behave

In addition to the warning signs children may exhibit, sexual offenders have common characteristics. An offender may groom a child for abuse by pushing physical, emotional and behavioral boundaries. An offender may also groom persons in the community, working to build friendships and trust with a child and his/her parents. Some of the warnings signs of a sexual offender are:

  • Excessive touching of children,
  • Inappropriate conversations with children, 
  • Showing favoritism to a certain child,
  • Sexualized behavior with children, and a
  • Pattern of law breaking, or otherwise encouraging children to break parent/guardian rules.

Why Children Do Not Tell Others About Their Abuse

  • Are not aware it is abuse or are confused by the abuse.
  • Afraid.
  • Are protecting the offender.

For the full text of this information, see Preventing Child Abuse: Parent Education Guide.



The YMCA and the community have a right and a responsibility to intervene to protect the health and welfare of children.

EXPECT Child Protection at the Y

The Y does not tolerate the mistreatment or abuse of children in its programs by an adult or the mistreatment or abuse of one child by another child. Staff, volunteers, and the children in our programs are expected to act in a caring, honest, respectful, and responsible manner. The YMCA wants to know if the Y is not meeting these obligations.

If you have serious concerns about any YMCA youth program, please contact us. 

SEEK Additional Education

The YMCA and YMCA of the USA partner with many local and national organizations that provide excellent training on child abuse prevention to communities. 

Darkness to Light is a non-profit committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse. Darkness to Light offers in-depth learning, tools, and practical guidelines to help adults prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse in their Stewards of Children® training. Details about the full training are at www.D2L.org/Stewards. Below are some sneak peek videos from Stewards of Children®.

Talking With Kids (2:16)
Watch this two-minute video to learn how talking with children is important to protect them from sexual abuse. 

1 in 10 Children (2:19)
Watch this two-minute video to learn the facts about child sexual abuse. 

Consequences of Sexual Abuse (2:17)
Watch this two-minute video to learn the facts about child sexual abuse. 

For more, see Community Partners for Child Abuse Prevention.


TEACH Your Child Personal Safety

Personal safety discussions are intended to encourage children to help themselves, and to encourage them to get help whenever they are being abused or when they find themselves in situations that make them feel uncomfortable.  

At a minimum, your discussion with your child should clarify:

  • Ground rules for appropriate and inappropriate touching, 
  • Ground rules for appropriate and inappropriate internet use (as age appropriate),
  • Bullying is never okay, 
  • How to tell someone to stop, and 
  • How they can get help.  

A Personal Safety phrase that may help your child understand and remember actions your child needs to take is:

My body belongs to me.  

If someone makes me feel uncomfortable, scared or hurt, or touches my private areas, 

I will yell “STOP” and GO TELL an adult who listens.

I have a right to be safe.  

I deserve respect.

Open communication with your child on serious topics, like abuse, in an environment that encourages your child to share his or her views or concerns often means your child will be more likely to come to you for help and be equipped to respond appropriately to attempted abuse.

REPORT Suspected Child Abuse

If a child discloses that someone hurt, scared, or made him or her feel uncomfortable, stay calm and listen. Your reaction has a powerful influence on the child! Do not react with anger and disbelief; instead, believe the child and thank the child for telling you. 

The YMCA’s reporting options for mistreatment that occurs at the YMCA include:

Reporting options for abuse that occurs in the community:

  • If the person is in immediate danger/harm, call 911.
  • If the person is not in immediate danger/harm, call Child Abuse Reporting Hotline at (800) 552-7096.