UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital

Child Protection Center Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I think a child has been abused?

If you suspect a child has been abused, you should call the Child Abuse Hotline to make a report. In Iowa that number is (800) 362-2178.

You only need to have a reasonable suspicion that a child has been harmed to report abuse. Do not feel you must know all the facts prior to making a report. All reports are confidential.

What will happen if I call the Department of Human Services (DHS)?

The DHS will begin an assessment if the following criteria have been met:

  • First, the victim must be a child.
  • Second, there must be allegations of abuse.
  • Finally, the person suspected of committing the abuse must be a caretaker of the child.

 DHS personnel will ensure that the child's immediate safety needs are met.

What will happen if I call law enforcement?

An officer will listen to your concerns and determine whether an investigation is appropriate.

What are signs that a child has been sexually abused?

There is no one symptom. Children may display a range of symptoms or signs that they have been abused. Signs include:

  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Engaging in seductive behavior
  • Low self-esteem
  • Noticeable weight gain or loss
  • Appearing threatened by physical contact or closeness
  • Inappropriate sexual play
  • Sexual knowledge inappropriate for age

If my child has been abused, is this going to cause problems forever?

Children may suffer a range of behaviors and consequences after they have been abused. This does not mean they cannot heal and recover from the abuse. It is most important the child understands this is not his or her fault.

Children often base their response on their parent's reaction. It is important for the parents to be a calm protector for their child. Children, and the family, will benefit from counseling and therapeutic services to deal with issues that arise from being abused, such as reestablishing personal boundaries and learning safety techniques.

My child was abused. Does this mean he might do this to someone else?

Although research has described a large percentage of incarcerated sex offenders state they were victimized as youth, this does not mean that all sexually abused children grow up to be perpetrators. It is important for parents to protect their children and ensure they receive therapeutic services.

Now that I know my child has been abused, who do we need to tell (school, relatives)?

Depending on the child's age and cognitive abilities, the child should be included in this decision. It is not crucial for everyone to know all the details. Often school personnel might benefit by knowing there are abuse issues, but do not need to know the specifics. Safety issues may need to be addressed with other family members, for example, not allowing a particular individual to be around other children.