How to Respond to Reports of Sexual Abuse

Last week, Haven Today featured interviews with Julie Lowe, author of Safeguards, as well as other parents and caregivers who care deeply about the safety and development of children. One interview in particular led to a deeper discussion on some of the questions regarding survivors of sexual abuse, which is disturbingly just as common in the church as it is in the world at large.

Daphne Cook helped found a camp to empower survivors of abuse in Northern Illinois called Camp Cedar IL, an organization that helps victims of abuse learn to be survivors who become heroes who help future victims of abuse. Following her interview with David Wollen in last week’s Haven Today series, Daphne provided a thoughtful follow-up to help other parents and caregivers know how to respond to reports of abuse.

How should someone respond if a child reports something that sounds like abuse?

For those that are on the denial end of the spectrum, please don’t disregard. Don’t ignore and don’t dismiss any reports of inappropriate behavior from the child. Listen to them and believe them. Don’t let pride of family or appearance stop you from taking the necessary steps to provide help and healing for the abused child.

On the other end of the spectrum of being overprotective, if something did happen—and the statistics tell us it does for one out of four girls and one out of six boys—it is not their fault. It is never their fault. They do not have to be ashamed.

For immediate help, call 800.656.HOPE or text HOME to 741741.

You are not alone — if you encounter child sexual abuse, resources and support are available. Call to have questions answered or chat with a trained crisis counselor, 24/7 at no charge. All conversations are confidential.

How do rates of abuse in the Church compare to that of the world?

The stats in the church family are no different than the population at large. In fact, it’s not any different across racial or financial lines either. It happens just as much in affluent homes as it does in poverty-stricken homes, it happens all across racial lines. However, some people may refuse to talk about it or acknowledge it at all, which just empowers the abuser to continue.

What is the cost of ignoring abuse?

Ignoring the abuse allows it to continue generation after generation. The more we can talk about it—and the more we’re not embarrassed to talk about it—the more we can share our stories and get adequate help for the ones who have been victimized.

Also, this may not be a felt concern but, by reporting abusers, the perpetrators can also get the help they need. Many themselves were victims of childhood sexual abuse. Reporting them will also keep perpetrators away from harming others.

How can we prevent abuse from happening in our community?

The only way we can stem the tide of abuse is to talk about it, to talk with each other, to share our stories again, and to not be ashamed—because the victim didn’t do anything wrong. It was not their fault.

The one thing that holds most victims back is the feeling of shame, and the feeling that they deserved it, that they did something to cause that person to harm them. The reality of it is that a bad person did an evil act toward an innocent person. No matter what situation the innocent person found themselves in, they did not deserve to be sexually abused in any way by another human being.

It’s wrong. Don’t protect the wrong person by denial. Don’t sacrifice the life of the child for the sake of pride.

How have you seen kids move past the feeling of shame and self-blame?

At Camp Cedar IL, one thing that really helps the older girls understand that it was not their fault is when the older girls see the younger girls coming to camp. They realize these little ones could not have possibly done anything to deserve sexual abuse.

What about boys?

We are in the works of putting together a camp for boys because boys are being hurt and abused as well. And this is rarely talked about. The stats tell us one in six boys experience abuse, but it could be much higher than that. Males tend not to disclose. It is often hard for them to be vulnerable.

What would you want to say to survivor reading this right now?

That you are a beautiful human being created in the image of God. That you are fully capable of living a full, complete, healthy rest of your life, especially if you decide to follow Christ and walk with Him. There’s always hope of full and complete healing. And the greatest aspect of your healing can be the way you help others. The numbers show many out there need help, and we need those who have survived to become heroes to help other victims move forward.

Further Resources

For further resources, visit or For more on the topic on equipping children for the world and culture today, listen to last week’s 5-part Haven Today series The Way They Should Go featuring author and counselor Julie Lowe. You can listen to Julie’s full interview here. Her book Safeguards is also available to you as our thanks for your gift to support the gospel-focused ministry of Haven Today.

About the Author

For several years, Daphne Cook volunteered at a camp for victims of sexual abuse in Texas. Eventually, the great need for the same kind of camp near her home in Northern Illinois became apparent to her, Gwen Wiethron, and Edith Reyns Dehotal, who together founded Camp Cedar IL in 2019. Daphne’s goal is to share the love of Christ with everyone she meets, especially the hurting and the lost who desperately need to hear His message of love and forgiveness. She is also a proud wife, proud mother of two beautiful children and proud stepmom to two fine men and a beautiful daughter-in-law.

Safeguards: Shielding Our Homes and Equipping Our Kids

“Safeguards” by Julie Lowe empowers parents and caregivers to protect children from modern dangers through biblical wisdom and practical safety skills.

Drawing on over 20 years of experience as a family counselor, Lowe provides guidance on equipping children to assess people and situations, teaching them how to live by faith in a world with real threats. This essential resource covers age-appropriate safety skills for preschoolers to college-bound teens, addressing issues like bullying, cyber-crimes, sexting, and abuse.

Safeguards: Shielding Our Homes and Equipping Our Kids helps parents grow in understanding, instill confidence in their children, and navigate unsafe situations with biblical conviction. Ensure your child’s safety with this invaluable guide.

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