Concerns about Sexual Abuse or Risky Sexual Behavior
Considerations when Supporting Youth
- Try to get more information about the nature of the behavior. Is the youth at risk of sexually hurting someone else? Vulnerable to being sexually taken advantage of? Making sexual comments or gestures that seem inappropriate?
- Ask about or try to find out what they are getting out of it and what need they are trying to fill. Find out how you can support them.
- Ask whether something happened that may be influencing their behavior.
- Teach them about safe sexuality and safe/unsafe touch, with other youth and with adults.
- Set clear limits about appropriate and inappropriate sexual behavior without shaming them.
- Let them know you are there for them and your priority is keeping them safe.
Connect with Supports
- There are several different ways to seek counseling or treatment. This includes a private therapist, a school counselor, mental health center services, and/or substance abuse treatment. Private therapists can be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), a licensed professional counselor (LPC), or a psychologist. This is usually covered by insurance and may occur weekly or every other week depending on treatment needs. Therapy is individualized and collaborative. A therapist may offer more frequent sessions if needed or may recommend a higher level of care as needed.
- Youth may also be able to receive counseling at school. This may be in the form of a school counselor who is accessible to all youth. The school counselor can give you more information about services available in the school.
- The School District of La Crosse also has a Student Family Assistance Program which offers short-term solution-focused interventions to support student mental health. If you are interested in this program, reach out to your school counselor.
- Youth in crisis may need more intensive support than outpatient therapy or school counseling.
Report to Child and Family Services
- If you have reason to believe there is sexual abuse, call the Childhelp Nation Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). This hotline is available 24/7 and all calls are confidential.
- You can also live chat with a trained counselor at www.childhelphotline.org
- If you are calling to report suspected child abuse or neglect in La Crosse County, you can call 608-784-4357 and indicate you are calling to make a report of child abuse/neglect. The receptionist will connect you with a local CPS Intake social worker.
- Be prepared to give them your name, phone number, relationship to the family, and the reason for your call. They will also ask for the youth’s name, date of birth, parents’ names, address, phone number, other adults and children in the home, any known mental health issues, and an overview of your concern. It is important to provide as much detailed and accurate information as possible.
- You can also visit the State of Wisconsin Child Protective Services website by clicking here.
- If you have a relationship with the parent, it is preferable to inform them of the report and, if possible, include them in the call. They may give first-hand information that can help Child and Family Services provide the right kind of intervention.
- You would not want to inform the parent if doing so increases the risk of abuse or retaliation on the child.
- Your information will not be disclosed to the family as the person who reported if you request to remain anonymous. You may also ask the intake worker how they are prioritizing the call so that you know how quickly the local worker will follow up.
- There is a potential that the CPS department screens the referral out and does not engage in formal follow-up with the family.
- You can also reach out to Gundersen’s Crime Victim Services by calling (608) 775-5557 or (800) 362-9567, ext. 55557.
- Crime Victim Services provides free and confidential crisis counseling, advocacy and information, and referral services. If you live in La Crosse, Monroe, Jackson, Trempealeau, and Vernon counties and are the victim of robbery, violent personal injury, assault, drunk driving, sexual assault, or are the survivor of or a secondary victim to homicide you can access this free service. You have rights and can get help if you are a victim of a crime.
Connect with your Medical Provider
- If you suspect your youth is at risk, getting them in to see their primary care provider (PCP) for an exam, sex education, or testing is a great place to start
- Your PCP can provide evaluation/consultation, testing, education, and referral as needed based upon your child’s behavior. They may be able to rule out a medical reason for the behavior and can discuss medication as an option if needed.
- If there is an urgent safety concern, take the youth to the Emergency Department if you feel it is safe for you to transport them.
- If you have reason to believe the youth may be sexually hurting others or has been sexually assaulted by a non-family member, call 9-1-1 for police intervention.
- When calling 9-1-1, be ready to give the dispatcher the right information. This includes name: phone number, address, date of birth, people involved, a description of the situation, and what kind of help you need. It may be helpful to inform the dispatcher of the child’s mental health issues so that the responding officer is aware. Remember that 9-1-1 is an emergency response, and the goal of the responding officer will be to ensure safety and move on to the next call.
- There are several possible responses by law enforcement. Law enforcement may provide support to stabilize, transport youth to the Emergency Department for evaluation, write a ticket, and/or place a youth in detention.
- Once law enforcement arrives, the outcome is up to their discretion.
What Else Can I Do?
If you would like assistance getting help for yourself or you would like to refer your child, student or friend for professional services, reach out to your school student services offices for additional support and information.
Great Rivers 2-1-1 offers free, confidential community information and referrals 24 hours/day. Dial 2-1-1 or (800) 362-8255 to talk to an information and referral specialist.