Skip to main content

What are Sexual Abuse Support Groups?

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > What are Sexual Abuse Support Groups?

Share this blog on:

What are Sexual Abuse Support Groups?

Sexual Abuse Support Groups

Receiving connection from others is central to healing from child sexual abuse. Saprea Support Groups are evidence-based and clinically informed sexual abuse support groups for individuals who experienced abuse at or before the age of eighteen. Because of the nature of child sexual abuse, survivors can often be left with feelings of shame, judgement, isolation, and loneliness. Saprea Support Groups are at the heart of providing a safe space for individuals to combat these feelings through connection with other survivors.

Healing and support can be found many places. Reaching out to friends and family and attending therapy are incredible forms of support where it is safe and possible to do so. But as helpful as a therapist may be, they are only one person. And friends and family, no matter how well-meaning, may not understand the full impact of what you’ve been through. Survivors who attend Saprea Support Groups share how a sexual abuse support group has helped them build community with others who more fully relate to their experiences.

People in your life, they get tired of hearing words like ‘trigger,’ and that you’re having a hard time. But people in group understand, you know? They understand it doesn’t go away. You can’t just talk about it once or twice and have it go away.
—Toni, Saprea Support Group Leader

Additionally, our sexual abuse support groups can help expand healing for survivors outside of therapy, or when therapy isn’t currently possible. Our chief clinical officer, Dr. Betsy Kanrowski describes her experience with a client.

My client started attending a Saprea Support Group, which greatly augmented her progress in therapy. She identified how attending a support group gave her something I couldn’t. It provided her with a community that ‘got it,’ that could share in return and offer relationships that were not possible between clinician and client. I felt secure in knowing she had ongoing support through her Saprea Support Group.
—Dr. Betsy Kanarowski, Chief Clinical Officer

Saprea’s sexual abuse support groups can be a free healing tool available to survivors looking for resources to help with their post-traumatic growth.

How Sexual Abuse Support Groups Work

Saprea Support Groups were developed with three important benefits in mind—safety, community, and education.


Each group is run by at least two group leaders with the help of a script. The support group script provides a confidential, consistent structure for group leaders and participants as they learn and share. During each meeting, sexual abuse survivors review meeting guidelines, complete check-ins, cover educational content, share insights, and experience healing and grounding activities.

These sexual abuse support groups are not a place to process past trauma. Processing past trauma is better suited for private or group therapy environments that are supported by a licensed clinician. Rather, these peer-led groups are meant to focus on how past experiences are showing up and impacting a survivor’s day-to-day life. The script is a key part of keeping these groups future focused.


Community is one of the most healing aspects of participating in a sexual abuse support group. Many survivors may have had feelings like: “No one understands how my abuse still impacts my life,” or “If people knew my past, they wouldn’t want to be around me anymore,” or “I feel ashamed of some the decisions I’ve made in an effort to cope with my trauma.” Support groups can help survivors know they are not alone, and that they are not the only one experiencing these feelings. Even if the experiences of other group participants differ, being around fellow survivors can help individuals to establish trust, experience a sense of belonging, hear a variety of perspectives, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

It’s about love and understanding, and I just feel more whole when I’m with them.
—Fran, Saprea Support Group Participant


As part of each group, participants will cover trauma-aware, evidence-based curriculum through videos and activities. Support group participants will cover topics like, trauma and the brain, overcoming shame, coping skills, and healthy connections. The content of our education is based on our experiences at Saprea providing services for thousands of survivors of child sexual abuse. Third-party research shows that these services lead to significant decreases in post-traumatic stress symptoms and increases in life satisfaction.

How Can a Survivor Connect with a Group?

Saprea’s sexual abuse support groups are available in English, French, German, and Spanish. Interested individuals can connect with a group through the Find a Group page. Survivors do not have to be past participants of our Saprea Retreat or Healing Webinar to participate. On our site, interested individuals will find options for in-person and online groups. There are scripts specifically catered to each of these formats. In-person groups can be a great option if you like to gather face-to-face and want the shared connection of a similar geographic region and culture. While our sexual abuse support groups are expanding all the time, there may not currently be an in-person group meeting close to you. In this case, an online support group might be a great option. Additionally, online support groups might be better for survivors who feel extra support being in the familiar environment of their home.

If you are a survivor and feel ready to start a group in your area, in-person or online, you can learn more on our Saprea Support Group landing page. Knowing if a sexual abuse support group is the right fit at this time is a personal decision. To learn more, survivors and supporters can visit our FAQ page or join a live interest meeting hosted by our team.

About the author


Annie Hartvigsen

Global Outreach Strategist
Annie Hartvigsen has worked at Saprea since 2018 in a variety of roles focused on community outreach and engagment. She holds a Masters of Arts degree in Art History and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature. Annie has always felt a drive to make public programs more accessible to community members, whether that means expanding programming or helping the public connect with existing organizations and services. Outside of work, Annie is either at a movie or playing in the outdoors.

Child Sex Trafficking Is Personal, Not Political

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > Child Sex Trafficking Is Personal, Not Political

Share this blog on:

Child Sex Trafficking Is Personal, Not Political

By: Chris Yadon, Laurieann Thorpe, Jake Neeley

The current surge of awareness and attention on child sex trafficking is both encouraging and disheartening. It is encouraging because we, as a society, are finally acknowledging this horrific practice. It is disheartening because our current dialogue about the issue of child sex trafficking is inconsistent with the most prevalent risks in our nation and local communities. This dialogue fails to recognize the realities of how, when, and where most children are trafficked for sex. To make it worse, individuals are choosing to politicize the issue with the intent to gain power. Leveraging a non-political issue for political gain is another form of exploitation and can do additional harm, including compounding existing trauma, to child sex trafficking survivors.

Our common humanity calls on us to act when we become aware of any injustice. Child sex trafficking being used as a political tool is one of those injustices. Rather than letting ourselves buy into the dialogue placing child sex trafficking into the political sphere, let’s focus on ways to understand the realities of the issue and protect children against traffickers and sexual exploitation.

In order to protect children against the risks of child sex trafficking, we as a society need to move to productive dialogue around the issue, capitalize on the positives of the current awareness, and take effective preventative action.

Move to Productive Dialogue 

If we want to make the dialogue around the issue productive, it needs to be based on concrete research-based facts. For example, the majority of child sex trafficking victims in the U.S. were trafficked by a member of their family and nearly 46% were trafficked by a parent/guardian.1

This context is critical to understanding the issue. It prompts us to focus our protective efforts and dialogue away from strangers and abductions and toward strengthening homes and families. Of course, abductions do occur with trafficking, but they are rare relative to the overall issue. Focusing solely on protecting against abductions makes us more likely to miss the much more common forms of trafficking happening all around us. When we understand that child sex traffickers are more likely to target children close to them, the signs and warnings that we watch for will shift. When we are watching for the most likely scenarios, we are much more likely to be prepared to spot and help child sex trafficking victims through the proper channels.

A second researched-based fact that can guide productive dialogue is that 87% of youth who are trafficked for sex have experienced sexual abuse prior to being trafficked.2 As the saying goes, correlation is not causation, but when correlations are as high as 87%, we need to pay attention. This realization drives our efforts to address not only child sex trafficking but other types of child sexual abuse. With earlier interventions, we can better prevent not only the initial abuse a child may experience, but also lower the risk of revictimization through sexual exploitation and other harms. Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse could be spared the lasting impacts of additional trauma if healing and protective resources were more readily available.

Promoting dialogue based around research will allow us to address real issues that survivors and those at risk of child sex trafficking face. For more research-based facts to guide your discussions, you can read through Saprea’s research brief.

Capitalize on the Positives of the Current Awareness 

With facts in hand, we are better prepared to discuss the issue of child sex trafficking. The next question is how can we utilize the positives of the current awareness levels around the issue? Discussions around child sex trafficking are rapidly increasing, and it is vital that we use that awareness to cement the issue in society’s mind. Three things can help us be successful in using current awareness levels to benefit trafficking survivors, victims, and children.


Focus on the issue, not on the politics.

We must do our best to not get sucked into making discussions around child sex trafficking political. Instead, we can focus on the fact that people of all different beliefs and ideologies want to protect children. We may disagree on how to do it, but we agree that children should be protected and defended. Redirect conversations you hear back to the real issue: how to protect children against the risks of trafficking.


Acknowledge the proximity to home.

Use the facts to talk about the risks in your own neighborhood and community. As humans, we often find it easier to focus on problems in other places affecting other people. It is much more difficult to accept that our own children are at risk of exploitation and abuse. But child sexual abuse is happening in every community in America, and we can best protect children from traffickers by acknowledging that the risk of trafficking exists everywhere. The Malouf Foundation offers a free, one-hour online training designed to help you recognize the signs of sex trafficking in your community.


Discuss the issue personally, not just online.

While this topic should be discussed online, in-person discussions are also critical to healthy dialogue and accurate awareness. Online conversations can easily become polarized and gloss over the nuances of the risk, often causing unnecessary harm to survivors already suffering the trauma of sexual abuse and trafficking. The issue is complex, and dialogue requires time. These deeper discussions are usually best held face-to-face, in person with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. Help create environments where people feel comfortable and safe asking difficult questions and discussing the issue.

Take Effective Preventative Action 

The natural response to awareness of a problem is the desire to act. The desire to do something is built into our biology; failure to act often creates incongruence with our beliefs. We feel more fulfilled and confident when we answer this biological call to act. While the desire to act comes easily, we often aren’t sure where to begin when it comes to acting against difficult issues like child sex trafficking.

The best place to take action is within your family and immediate community. Once you have learned about the issue, learn how to protect the children within your own communities and educate others on how they too can help. The top five principles that can protect children from traffickers and sexual abuse are:


Assess risky situations and practice navigating them.


Teach how to set and respect healthy boundaries.


Keep the lines of communication open.


Model and develop emotional well-being.

Usually, parents or primary caregivers are best equipped to teach and apply these principles. Families can create safety plans, establish and communicate their values, and share the plan with those who have roles in their child’s life. Prevent Child Abuse Utah has a sample safety plan available at its website and parents can create their own from a template.

Of course, communities can and should support the family in prevention and education efforts, but parents and caregivers must take on the primary role in protecting children against sex traffickers and abuse. Yes, protecting other people’s children is positive and noble, but focusing on others when our own homes and neighborhoods are full of risk is one of the great ironies of our current response to this issue. Protect who you can and protect where you are now. Help others to protect their own by educating on the topic and encouraging productive (and accurate) dialogue around the issue of child sex trafficking. Let’s address these misunderstandings, shift the dialogue, and do better for our children.

Finally, if you see something suspicious, call local law enforcement immediately to make a report. In addition, you may also report a tip to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “info” to 233733. You should never engage with a potential trafficker or violent situation. This could put you and the person being trafficked in danger.

About the authors

  • Chris Yadon
    Managing Director of Saprea
  • Laurieann Thorpe
    Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah
  • Jake Neeley
    Executive Director of The Malouf Foundation

Each of these organizations is dedicated to ending child sexual abuse.

How to Stop Child Sexual Abuse

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > How to Stop Child Sexual Abuse

Share this blog on:

How to Stop Child Sexual Abuse

What Is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse is widespread. It occurs across all socioeconomic statuses, religions, and cultures. It is an adverse childhood experience that has long-lasting effects on a survivor’s mental, emotional, physical, and relational well-being. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network defines child sexual abuse as “any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer. Child sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors.”1

Child Sexual Abuse Statistics

1 in 5 children is sexually abused before reaching age 18. In the U.S., this equates to more than one million children who will be sexually abused this year.2

The ubiquitous nature of child sexual abuse can make it feel overwhelming or impossible to prevent it. However, you can take actionable steps to help prevent child sexual abuse.

Child Sexual Abuse Prevention

While discussing child sexual abuse prevention, keep in mind that the responsibility of preventing abuse always falls on adults. Although children can take steps to reduce risk, it is always an adult’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for, take care of, and teach children.

At Saprea, we believe that proactive parenting is an important tool in preventing child sexual abuse. A positive relationship and secure attachment with your child can be powerful. This requires bonding with your child, modeling and teaching the management of emotion, and having and encouraging open communication. Dive deeper into how to begin building a more proactive approach to parenting.

Parents can help prevent abuse through screening potential caregivers for safety and setting boundaries for the adults in their children’s life. A child is more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know. In 80% of cases children report knowing the person who abused them.3 Even environments that feel safe can carry risk. Trust your intuition and take measures to increase the safety at family gatherings and other social events. Pay attention to the way others interact with the children around you. Look out for grooming behaviors and other potential red flags.

Education can reduce the risk of child sexual abuse and empower children. Teach children about body boundaries, safe touch, and consent. Educate them on what to do in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation. Communicate boundaries with your children and help them practice asserting those boundaries. Talk about age-appropriate topics relating to sex and sexual development early and often and model open communication within this context.

Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children

Knowing the signs of child sexual abuse can help us recognize when a child may be at risk, and needs help. Some signs of child sexual abuse are a drastic change in their social, emotional, or physical behaviors.4 Recognizing the signs can be easier when you know the typical stages of child sexual development. If children are acting abnormally or presenting differently than a typical sexual developmental stage for their age, it may be time to investigate further. Reporting any suspected abuse is a key piece of prevention. It is important to act if you suspect child sexual abuse.

In conclusion, preventing child sexual abuse requires a combination of awareness, education, and action. Parents and caregivers must take steps to protect their children and the children around them from sexual abuse by setting boundaries, screening potential caregivers, establishing open communication, teaching children, and reporting any suspected abuse. As each adult takes on their role and we work together, we can create a safe environment for our children and prevent the devastating effects of child sexual abuse.

If you have experienced child sexual abuse, healing and hope is possible.

About the author


Kristen Grant

Clinical Therapist
Kristen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at the Saprea Retreat. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology and her master's degree in social work from Brigham Young University. Her clinical experiences include working in a residential program for young adults with autism as well as working at community mental health clinics. Most recently before joining our team, she worked with children, adolescents, and adults with a focus on healing from trauma and working towards a secure attachment. Kristen has enjoyed her opportunity to work with a variety of people throughout their healing journey. Through these experiences, she has gained a passion for helping others find their voice and heal. Outside of work Kristen enjoys traveling, being outside, reading, and playing with her dog.

What is Sextortion?

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > What is Sextortion?

Share this blog on:

What is Sextortion?

“Send me another pic—sexier this time. Or I’ll send the one I already have to everyone you know.” 
“For $500 dollars, you can make this all go away.” 
 “You don’t want this passed around the school, do you?” 
“Maybe you should’ve been more careful with the pics you sent before dumping me.” 
“If you tell the police, they’ll arrest you for sending me child porn.” 


Sextortion is a form of child sexual abuse involving the threat to release sexually explicit material of the victim unless certain demands are met. Most commonly the perpetrator threatens to share sexual images of the victim (real or faked) with the purpose of obtaining additional sexually explicit content, sexual contact with the victim, money, or other demands. While intimate images are the most well-known type of blackmail, sextortionists can use other leverage against the victim, like the threat to share a screenshot of an intimate conversation, a video from the victim’s webcam, or private information about the victim’s sexuality. This last threat may factor into why LGBTQ+ youth are nearly three times as likely to be sextorted as their heterosexual peers.1

Sextortion is one of many forms of tech-facilitated sexual abuse that involves the nonconsensual obtaining and/or sharing of sexual images. Such distribution is committed with the intent to harm, humiliate, exploit, or gain profit. What separates sextortion from more public forms of tech-facilitated abuse, like image-based sexual abuse, sexual harassment, or revenge porn, is that sextortion centers around the threat of releasing images to gain control over the victim. This sense of power, along with the feelings of helplessness instilled in the victim, are the main drivers behind sextortion’s harms.


Given that sextortion is still a relatively new phenomenon, it remains unclear how many people are impacted by this crime.2 Recent studies show that the percentage of US teens who experience sextortion is around 3–5%.3,4 According to the FBI and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the number of reports involving sextortion has increased dramatically, more than doubling between 2019 and 2021.5,6 And in the year 2022, the Homeland Security Investigations received over 3,000 sextortion tips, though the amount of individual cases depicted by this number is unknown.7

What is clear is that sextortion is a growing trend that places youth at risk and falls into two main categories.2,8

Blackmailed by a Stranger Met Online

The first category of sextortion involves a victim being targeted by someone they met online.8 In these instances, the perpetrator will often befriend the youth on a social media app, live streaming or gaming platform, or other medium with a chat feature. During this initial contact, the perpetrator will likely use a false identity, pretending to be someone younger, attractive, and typically of the opposite sex to garner the youth’s interest and trust. In fact, this type of catfishing is used in 91% of sextortion cases involving perpetrators met online.9

While communicating with the youth, the perpetrator will use grooming methods such as flattery, compliments, flirtation, shared secrets, and signs of genuine interest in the youth’s life. They may even offer the youth gifts or bribes as they build up a rapport.7

The perpetrator will then ask the youth to send them a suggestive photo of themselves. This request may come after an expressed attraction to the youth, excessive flattery about the youth’s looks, or even a sexted image sent by the perpetrator. After the youth is pressured into sending a sexual photo, the perpetrator uses that photo as blackmail, threatening to share it online or with the youth’s contacts unless they meet a specific demand. Some perpetrators may demand more pictures or other forms of sexually explicit content. They may even demand sexual contact with the victim or coerce them into forms of illegal activity. Others may demand payment in what is termed as financial sextortion, a rising trend that is increasingly targeting young males.10

Blackmailed by Someone You Know

While instances involving strangers encountered online have been the focus of the media’s rising interest in sextortion, there is a second type of sextortion that youth may experience—being sextorted by someone they already know.8 In fact, research shows that in the majority of cases a minor is sextorted by someone who is already a part of their life, most often a current or former romantic partner.3,8 This type of sextortion seems to coincide with teen dating victimization, specifically with threatening to share photos of a partner in order to control them, force them to return to a relationship, or force them to provide more photos post-breakup.

Although victims often knowingly provide sexual images that are later used against them, the degree of consent involved in such a decision may be up for debate, even within romantic pairings. One study showed that while most victims initially sent the images to the person they knew (75%), many felt pressured to do so (67%).8 This may be indicative of the complicated and controversial nature of sexting. Because while sexting remains common among adolescents as a form of social bonding, romantic expression, and sexual exploration, girls in particular have reported feeling pressured, manipulated, or coerced into sending images of themselves, as well experiencing more negative consequences as a result.8 One of those consequences may be sextortion. If the sensitive content is eventually shared by the blackmailer, then the youth also becomes the victim of image-based sexual abuse (the non-consensual sharing of images). Depending on the situation, the sextortion may also overlap with revenge porn, online sexual harassment, the distribution of sexually explicit materials involving children, and other forms of tech-facilitated sexual abuse.

What Are the Harms?

In about half of sextortion cases involving minors, the blackmailer follows through with the threat of releasing the sensitive content—posting it online and/or sharing it with the victims’ contacts.8 Whether the threat is carried out or not, sextortion can impact the victim in a number of other harmful ways. Many victims experience feelings of helplessness, shame, fear, and a loss of control.11 Some have expressed feeling trapped, like there was no way out. Such feelings of dread, worry, and hopelessness have led to other harmful impacts, including high depression levels, panic attacks, difficulty eating, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and—in a few high-profile cases—suicide.11,12 These risks can intensify in cases where the sextortionist continues to harass or stalk the victim (sometimes for a period of up to six months), create a fake online profile about them, and/or encourage the victim to harm themselves.3,8

In instances where the child is sextorted by someone they met online, they are not only threatened with blackmail, but may also lose a relationship they had perceived as safe, supportive, or even loving.10

As with other forms of child sexual abuse, the shame that a victim can experience because of sextortion reduces the likelihood that they will reach out for help. In fact, only half of minors who are sextorted tell someone about their victimization. Most feel too embarrassed (80%) or dread that they’ll get in trouble (68%).8 Among victims who do open up to a parent, girls are significantly more likely to disclose (41.7%) than boys (28.6%).3

How to Stop Sextortion

Sextortion is a crime that attempts to isolate victims through feelings of shame, helplessness, and terror. Victims may not only fear getting in trouble by their parents and law enforcement, but also having their devices taken away, an outcome that can feel like punishment and lead to further isolation ( The most important thing a parent can do to reduce the risk of their child being sextorted is to foster open and continual communication.

Researchers recommend less emphasis be placed on stranger danger—considering that people the child already knows can still pose a threat, while connections formed online can lead to healthy, meaningful relationships. Rather, parents are encouraged teach and model what healthy relationships look like—whether that relationship is first developed in person or online, and whether it is an acquaintance, friendship, or romance.4,13 As youth become more knowledgeable of what constitutes a healthy relationship—including authenticity, openness, communication, and a respect for boundaries—they’ll be more able to identify situations and interactions that may place them at risk. They’ll also be more equipped to maintain healthy boundaries, as well as deflect demands and resist pressures that seek to violate those boundaries. They’ll also be more able navigate through abusive scenarios like sextortion by ceasing contact, seeking help, and recognizing that they are not at fault. Youth will seek out such support if they have already been assured that their parent is a safe and trusted person they can turn to, no matter the issue they’re facing. If the parent has a history of responding rather than reacting, and has maintained open lines of communication about all manner of sensitive or difficult topics, the child or teen will be less likely to isolate if they are targeted.

Along with open communication and modeling healthy relationships, parents can also teach and model healthy boundaries with technology. They can educate their kids about digital citizenship and the risks that come with living in the digital era, including the risk of sextortion. Parents can advise their kids to be selective about what they share with others—online and offline—and to be aware that people can pretend to be anyone online. They can also set boundaries around screen time and internet use, monitor or spot check devices, be in the know about what apps and social media platforms their kids are using, and be aware of who their kids are communicating with.

Warning Signs

Parents can also be on the lookout for warning signs of sextortion and other forms of child sexual abuse, tech-facilitated or otherwise. These signs might include a withdrawal from general interests and activities, isolating from others, increased anxiety and/or depression levels, lashing out, stealing money, refusing to discuss what they’re doing online and/or who they’re communicating with, and being constantly agitated or on edge.

What Do I Do if Something Has Already Happened? 

If your child has already been victimized by sextortion, it is important to:

  • Block all further communications with the sextortionist.
  • Report the account to the website or platform where the sextortionist made contact.
  • Avoid sending money if the sextortionist is demanding payment.
  • Keep all messages, photos, and other related communications as evidence for prosecution.
  • Report the incident to the authorities. You may also consider using the CyberTipline run by the National Center for Missing and Exploiting Children (NCMEC).
  • Refrain from taking away the child’s device, as this may instill additional feelings of shame and isolation.
  • Offer support, empathy, and safety in the aftermath, assuring the child they are not to blame.
  • Connect the child with professional resources to help them manage any distressing impacts.


You can learn more about at sextortion by visiting,, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and For more information about how to protect the children in your life from sexual abuse, we invite you to explore Saprea’s sexual abuse prevention resources.

About the author


Breeann Allison

Research and Program Development Strategist
Breeann joined Saprea as an Education Coordinator at the end of 2018. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature with a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. Currently she works as a member of the Research and Program Development Team and a co-teacher for the Saprea Healing Webinar. She is also the author of Saprea's Reclaim Hope Workbook and co-author of Why Do I Still Feel This Way: Changing Your Relationship with the Trauma of Child Sexual Abuse. She has worked in publishing for seven years, first as a curriculum developer at Gibbs Smith Education and then as an editor at FranklinCovey. On the side she enjoys writing mediocre fiction, spoiling her nieces and nephews, and defending the sacredness of the Oxford comma.

Can Children Sexually Abuse Other Children? 

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > Can Children Sexually Abuse Other Children? 

Share this blog on:

Can Children Sexually Abuse Other Children? 

Margo is a stay-at-home parent of three children. She walked in on her 7-year-old son playing with his 2-year-old cousin’s penis. When she asked her son what he was doing, he responded, “He was crying so I was trying to make him feel better” Margo was devastated. She thought to herself, My son is a sex offender. What should I do? Was Margo correct in assuming that her son was a sex offender?

Penny, a working mother of two, caught her 10-year-old daughter touching her 3-year-old sister’s vagina. When she saw what was happening, Penny said, “Stop doing that. Go clean your room.” Penny did not address what her daughter had been doing, assuming it was “normal” behavior for children. Was Penny correct in not addressing the behavior further?

Both of these scenarios can be startling for parents, and they both should be addressed. Is there such a thing as child-on-child sexual abuse? This can be a difficult topic for parents to talk about, but it is important that parents have the proper knowledge about how to respond and to recognize what may be potentially harmful sexual behaviors.

Child-on-child sexual abuse is when a prepubescent child is sexually abused by another child or adolescent. This abuse could include physical force, emotional manipulation, bribery, tricks, or threats by the other child. It can also include a non-coercive act. This occurs when one child initiates sexual acts and the other child goes along with it without an understanding of what is going on.1 There is no consent by the child for these acts as he/she is unable to give consent. (Please refer to our Community Education guide about consent.)

What could lead to child-on-child sexual abuse? There may be many factors. Some children who engage in this behavior have been victims of child sexual abuse themselves, but this is not always the case. Other factors may be exposure to sexually explicit material, repeatedly witnessing sexual activity of adults or adolescents, bullying, emotional and/or physical abuse, or attachment disruptions. In some cases, the child or adolescent is acting impulsively with no intent of causing harm to the child.

Some children may be sexually reactive, which is when they act out in sexual ways because they have been sexually abused themselves. Sexual reactivity is a learned behavior. However, whether there was intent to harm or not, abusive acts are still harmful to the child who was acted upon.

Studies suggest that at least one-third of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by other children and young people, and most often on a younger child.2 Some of this is peer-to-peer sexual abuse. Some factors to consider are if the sexual acts are mutual or does not include the inequality of the children, power dynamics, disability, and age gaps of two or more years. Child-on-child sexual abuse is most likely to occur in families, between siblings. In fact, this type of abuse is actually 3–4 times more likely than father-to-daughter sexual abuse. Sibling sexual abuse occurs at a greater frequency and over a longer period of time due to access of the child. Children who experience sibling sexual abuse are less likely to disclose than intra-familial abuse by an adult in the home.3

The effects of child-on-child sexual abuse are largely the same as children who are victimized by adults. The impacts of the abuse may include anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, suicide, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, and sleeping disorders. Behavioral indicators to watch for are difficulty learning, a heightened startle response, anxiety about being left alone with a certain child, and regression such as bed wetting, tantrums or outbursts.

To understand child-on-child sexual abuse we need to look at what healthy sexual development looks like.

Returning to the stories of Margo and Penny—it is important that the behaviors they observed be addressed immediately, both for the wellbeing of the child who was abused and for the child who initiated the sexual contact. “Brushing off” the behaviors because “kids will be kids” can have lasting impacts for all involved.4 The sooner the behaviors are addressed, the sooner they will be stopped. Be careful not to label the child who initiated the abuse as a “perpetrator” or “pedophile” as this can unduly shame them and could impede their ability to move to healthier patterns. By providing support and education when child-on-child sexual abuse is discovered, you can minimize further risk and lasting effects of abuse.

About the author


Annette Curtis, LCSW

Retreat Manager
Annette joined Saprea in 2016 after working for 23 years at a nonprofit organization with children and adolescents in the foster care system. Annette received her BS in psychology from Brigham Young University and her master’s in social work from the University of Utah. She is an experienced clinician with a background in trauma including child sexual abuse, and has worked with individuals ranging from ages four through adulthood. She is dedicated to helping those who have experienced sexual abuse trauma and its effects. When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family at home or Disneyland.

Protection Against Sextortion Starts with Understanding the Threat

teenage boy looking at phone while sitting on couch

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > Protection Against Sextortion Starts with Understanding the Threat

Share this blog on:

Protection Against Sextortion Starts with Understanding the Threat

Just over 25 years ago, I held my oldest child for the first time. It was an amazing feeling as I was flooded with intense and immediate love. It didn’t take long before that love was replaced with the realization that I was expected to nurture and provide for this new little human. My worry nearly equaled the intensity of my love. How was I going to raise a decent human being, nurture him in a positive way, and protect him from everything he would experience? These questions can be all consuming for a new parent. Fortunately love won out as our journey began together.

Any parent or primary caregiver has a list of things they do to protect their children. I am not talking about a written list, but an intuitive list that sits in their minds and guides how they raise their children. Generally, things move on and off that list based on the parent or caregiver’s past experiences, but occasionally parents face a new threat no previous generation of parents had to experience.

Sexual extortion (sextortion) is one of these threats.

Sextortion is a form of child sexual abuse where a victim is threatened or blackmailed to meet the specific demands of a perpetrator. In these cases, either the threat or the demand is sexual in nature.

Most commonly the perpetrator threatens to share sexual content about the victim (either real or faked) with the purpose of obtaining additional sexual content, sexual activity, money, or other favors from the victim.

Protecting against sextortion starts with understanding the threat. Although perpetrators gain access to extortable content through many methods, sextortion often starts with sexting or digital sharing of sexual material. It’s important to understand that the child or youth may have chosen to share the sexual material, but once shared, the material can quickly get into other people’s hands. This decision may have been influenced by a variety of factors, such as peer pressure, relationship expectations, curiosity, exploration, bullying, coercion, or a desire to impress or be included. Here are just a few of many statistics that can help us understand the threat.

  • 46.8% of youth report having received a sexted image.1
  • Data from police indicate that 90-100% of nonconsensual-distribution offenders were other youth.2
  • 72% of youth who receive a forwarded sexted image don’t report it.1
  • Only 2.6% told their parents they were being victimized.1
  • A quarter of youth justify their forwarding of a sexted image as a joke.1

Once we understand the threat, we can turn our attention to principles that can help us minimize the threat and protect our child. Here are five of the best things parents and caregivers can do to reduce the risk of sextortion:


Assess risky situations and practice navigating them.

The developing brain of a child and youth is not yet wired to effectively assess risky situations especially as it relates to sexual activity. We should not expect children and youth to navigate sexual activity decisions without significant adult support. For this reason, parents and caregivers should walk through various risky situations—online and offline—that could lead to sextortion and practice with the child how they might navigate the situations.


Teach how to set and respect healthy boundaries.

If I could only pick one principle to teach my children about risk reduction, this would be the principle. Learning how to set and hold boundaries is a life skill that pays huge dividends. For sextortion specifically, boundaries help children and youth reduce the chance that they will have sexual material available to be sextorted. Boundaries also impede perpetrators if by chance they do obtain sexual material. As a parent or caregiver, you get a double dose of protection by teaching one principle.


Keep the lines of communication open.

Learning to respond instead of react directly combats the shame and stigma that often prevent a victim from seeking help. A parent who can respond to a child or youth when they hear difficult things makes it more likely that the child or youth will keep the lines of communication open. Learning to respond instead of react is not easy to do when you are dealing with big emotions or serious issues. Practice responding to circumstances where your child might disclose sexting or sextortion.


Discuss sexual development and healthy intimacy.

Proactive big talks mixed in with a lot of responsive little talks about sexual development arm your children with an understanding of what is normal and healthy when it comes to their sexual development. This makes it more likely for them to recognize unhealthy relationships. This also helps them elevate unhealthy relationships to their parents or caregivers, allowing an opportunity for the parent or caregiver to intervene. If your child is old enough to have technology in their hands it is time to have the big talk about sextortion.


Model and develop emotional well-being.

Children and youth most often model what they see. Perpetrators of sextortion are looking for vulnerabilities. A child or youth who demonstrates emotional well-being reduces their risk. This is not a fix-all. Sextortion can happen to anyone, even a child or youth who is emotionally well, but risk can be reduced as we model well-being in ourselves and develop well-being in our children and youth.

Sextortion sounds scary to a parent or caregiver. And it is. Educating ourselves about how to reduce the risk allows us to combat that fear through action. We can reduce risk. We can empower our children and youth to build healthy relationships, avoid or navigate risky situations, and come to us for help if something does happen. As I reflect back on my 25 years of parenting, I can confidently say that combatting risks with knowledge, understanding, and actions allows me to focus on the joy and love of parenting. Let’s let love win out.

For additional prevention resources visit

About the author


Chris Yadon

Managing Director
Chris Yadon is the Managing Director of Saprea, and is responsible for managing all operations and services of Saprea in both Utah and Georgia. Yadon has spent most of his professional career in start-up executive management with an emphasis in operations, marketing, and sales. Since joining Saprea in 2015, Yadon has brought a valuable skillset to the organization and is committed to addressing the epidemic of child sexual abuse. His expertise centers on increasing awareness arond this epidemic and educating the public on best practices for prevention and the healing services available to survivors. Yadon has been featured across several regional and national media platforms where he is often requested as an industry thought leader and expert.

How Little Talks Can Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > How Little Talks Can Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse

Share this blog on:

How Little Talks Can Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse

You want to protect your child from sexual abuse. But where do you start? With Little Talks! You can have them at ANY age, starting as young as a newborn. Not sure what to say? Check out all of our Little Talks below to see what you should talk to your child about, no matter their age.


Little Talks to Have With Your 0- to 2-Year-Old

It is never too early to talk to your child about sex and healthy sexuality. Even your infant isn’t too young for you to lay a positive groundwork.

Learn more

Little Talks to Have With Your 2- to 4-Year-Old

When children are this age they are very curious about their bodies and the way that everything works. It’s the perfect time to talk about sex!

Learn more

Little Talks to Have With Your 5- to 8-Year-Old

As your children interact more with the outside world, they may hear or see things that make them curious. If those have to do with sex then you want to make sure you’re the one they talk to about their questions.

Learn more

Little Talks to Have With Your 9- to 12-Year-Old

Your tween may be going through puberty, or will be soon. Time to make sure that they understand what’s happening to their bodies and minds as they develop.

Learn more

Little Talks to Have With Your 13- to 15-Year-Old

A younger teen may start pushing you away so they can have a greater feeling of autonomy. Make sure that you still keep the communication open and continue to talk to them about sex.

Learn more

Little Talks to Have With Your 16- to 18-Year-Old

The older your child gets, the less comfortable they may be talking to you about sex. Don’t let that discourage you! At this age they are still vulnerable to sexual abuse and need you there to talk to them and support them.

Learn more

What Is a Nonprofit Organization (NPO)?

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > What Is a Nonprofit Organization (NPO)?

Share this blog on:

What Is a Nonprofit Organization (NPO)?

Nonprofit organizations (sometimes referred to as NPOs) often reflect the best of society as they bring employees and volunteers together to work towards a common goal. Oftentimes, these goals are to support basic human needs, social causes, or conservation efforts related to our natural resources. A big difference between a for-profit organization and a nonprofit organization is that a nonprofit does not generate profits for its owners. So, if nonprofits don’t generate profit how do they work?

What Is a Nonprofit and How Does It Work?

A nonprofit organization (NPO) is an organization that typically uses public and/or private donations to fund its philanthropic mission to further a social cause and/or provide a public benefit.1

Every year, over one million children will be sexually abused; that’s one in five children by the time they turn 18. Sadly, survivors experience higher rates of substance abuse, are three times more likely than the general population to attempt suicide, and experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, eating orders, and PTSD. No child should have to endure this trauma.

The estimated economic cost of child sexual abuse totals over $9.3 billion annually in the United States.2

Saprea’s unique purpose as an organization is to provide healing resources for survivors of childhood sexual abuse through in-person retreats, healing webinars, survivor-led sexual abuse support groups, and online resources. We also aim to liberate society from the issue of child sexual abuse by empowering adults, parents, and caregivers to protect the children in their lives and their communities.

What Is the Purpose of a Nonprofit?

A nonprofit organization’s purpose is to further a social cause and/or provide a public benefit by providing services and awareness related to that cause. It may also help facilitate focused fundraising efforts that help target a particular issue.

Founded in 2014, Saprea (formerly The Younique Foundation) helps survivors of child sexual abuse heal from the impacts of trauma and empowers parents and caregivers to reduce the risk of sexual abuse from happening to the children in their lives. Because of the generosity of donors, both private and public, we are able to offer the following resources:


The Saprea Retreat is a free clinically informed, four-day in-person retreat for adult female survivors of child sexual abuse. The retreat is led by a team of licensed therapists and case managers that help survivors understand the impacts of trauma in the body and the brain. Participants are given opportunities to apply healing tools and build a community of support. The retreat is followed up by an online course.


The Healing Webinar is a free 4.5-hour interactive and educational online experience for female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The webinar is led by a clinical therapist who specializes in trauma recovery, along with a co-teacher.


Saprea Support Groups are available in 11+ countries and offered in four languages. These sexual abuse support groups allow adult female survivors to connect with other survivors in safe spaces in-person or online.


The healing from sexual abuse section of our website offers a library of clinically researched resources that help survivors understand the effects of child sexual abuse, common symptoms they may experience, and healing practices.


In order to help adults, parents, and caregivers reduce risk of child sexual abuse and also to recognize and respond to signs of suspected abuse, our research-based sexual abuse prevention resources exist. This library of resources provides adults with practical prevention tools like teaching consent, boundaries, and sexual development at all ages.


Finally, Saprea offers community education classes where volunteers can be trained to teach prevention classes in their communities. These classes include topics such as consent, healthy sexuality, and reducing the risk of child sexual abuse.

How Does a Nonprofit Make Money?

Technically, a nonprofit doesn’t make money. A nonprofit raises funds through public donations, private donations, grants, memberships, and selling products. For-profit organizations sell products and/or services which then compensate the owners and shareholders with the earnings. In contrast, all funds generated by a nonprofit organization are then invested back into the organization to continue advocating for causes the organization supports. These funds can be used to keep running the services they offer.

Saprea accepts public and private donations, grants, and we even have a store with merchandise that goes to supporting survivors of child sexual abuse. A couple of times a year, we host fundraising events either in Utah and/or Georgia where we invite community leaders and ask for their financial support to help survivors heal and equip parents with the tools they need to protect their children.

Donating to Nonprofit Organizations

Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to as charitable organizations.3 These charitable organizations can receive donations from the public that are tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S. law.

Because Saprea is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, your donations (whether public or private) are tax deductible. For transparency purposes, we publish our annual report that shows statements, tax returns, and our SAS 114 letter.

Year after year, Saprea receives GuideStar’s Platinum Seal of Transparency. This award puts us in the Top 1% of nonprofits in the United States for transparency.

According to Charity Navigator a nonprofit’s cost ratio should be 65/35, meaning that 65% of a nonprofit’s budget should go to programs and 35% should go to overhead. At Saprea, our cost ratios come in at 78/22, exceeding industry standards. This means that 78 cents of every dollar go directly to programs and 22% goes to overhead.

Since Saprea’s inception in 2014, this is our impact:
  • 4,700 survivors have attended the Saprea Retreat
  • 100+ support groups have launched around the world
  • 9,500+ hours have been put in by volunteers

Not all nonprofits operate with integrity or transparency. Unfortunately, you don’t have to look too far to see news stories over the last couple of years about nonprofit organizations (churches, tax havens, etc.) abusing donor contributions. It’s important to donate to NPOs that are transparent and use donations efficiently. We as an organization stress the importance of transparency and treating funds with respect.

If you’d like to chip in once or monthly to Saprea to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse heal from trauma and empower parents to protect their children, please consider donating.

About the author


Eric Rivas

SEO/Web Analyst
Eric joined Saprea at the end of 2021 as the SEO/Web Analyst. He received a BS in marketing, a Professional Sales Certificate, and an AS in university studies from Utah Valley University, where he is currently enrolled in the MBA program. Before making the jump to the nonprofit sector, he worked in start-up, agency, and corporate marketing positions. In his free time he enjoys traveling with his wife, reading, and volunteering in the community.

What Happened to The Haven Retreat?

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > What Happened to The Haven Retreat?

Share this blog on:

What Happened to The Haven Retreat?

Haven Retreat was created by Shelaine and Derek Maxfield after learning a loved one had been traumatized by child sexual abuse. The Maxfields wanted to build “a retreat nestled in the mountains, a place where women could begin their healing.”

The Haven Retreat

Since the inaugural retreat was created in 2015 by The Younique Foundation, thousands of adult female survivors have attended The Haven Retreat. It’s inspiring to know that so many women have taken the opportunity to find healing. The Haven Retreat was the focus of a 2020 research study by two universities that found that participants experienced significant gains in their life satisfaction and ability to cope with their childhood trauma.

In February 2022, The Younique Foundation rebranded as Saprea. This change was necessary to elevate our brand, to communicate the breadth and growth of our services, reach new audiences, and facilitate additional partnerships. Along with an updated brand, we have taken action to ensure our core values and focus will not change.

Saprea Rebrand

The rebrand to Saprea positions us to become the leader in the all-encompassing fight against child sexual abuse. We eagerly continue our retreat services for survivors and have no intention of eliminating the retreat. Rather, we have actually grown our healing services by creating the Saprea Healing Webinar, an interactive and educational online experience that provides female survivors the opportunity to jumpstart their healing from home. Saprea also recognizes the magnitude of the problem of child sexual abuse across all communities, and is working to offer resources and support more individuals and families who have been affected. In 2022, Saprea offered its first Kosher retreat at its Utah location.

With this rebrand also came the renaming of many of our services —The Haven Retreat included. The retreat is now named the Saprea Retreat. We continue to offer this in-person service because we know it works. Third-party research has been conducted by the international impact measurement company 60 Decibels with survivors who attended our retreat. The results found we had a Net Promoter Score of 98, the highest among those 60 Decibels ever measured. To put this into perspective, companies like Amazon and Apple have some of the highest NPS scores, ranging in the 80s. Saprea scored a 98! The study also found that more than 91% of retreat participants reported experiencing a transformation in their life that ranged from positive to significant and lasting.

Saprea Retreat

This is why we created the Saprea Retreat—to improve lives and in some cases save lives. The retreat provides education on the impacts of trauma, tools to support long-term healing, and opportunities to connect with fellow survivors. At the retreat, survivors participate in classes and experiential activities that reinforce that they are deserving of compassion and healing, and are not alone in the trauma they experienced. Our own post-retreat surveys indicate that more than 70% of participants stay in contact with their someone they met while attending the retreat, even after a year has passed.

Three weeks each month, the Saprea Retreat hosts survivors from Monday to Thursday at its Utah and Georgia locations. Participants gather for an immersive experience where they can learn, reflect, and engage in a variety of activities that help increase feelings of well-being and empowerment. Thanks to the generosity of donors, the Saprea Retreat is free to any woman who was sexually abused at or before age 18. More details about the retreat and the application process can be found at

About the author


Melinda Colton

Communications Director
Melinda joined Saprea as the Communications Director in 2020. She has worked in higher and public education and has won national awards for her writing and strategic communications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Brigham Young University. She considers it an honor to share the courageous stories of survivors of child sexual abuse. Melinda and her husband are the parents of two sons. In her free time she has a passion for Broadway musicals, travel, the Utah Jazz, and Diet Coke.  

The 3 Ways I Taught My Special Needs Son About Sex

Saprea > Blog > All Blogs > The 3 Ways I Taught My Special Needs Son About Sex

Share this blog on:

The 3 Ways I Taught My Special Needs Son About Sex

Talking about sex is awkward.
Talking about sex with your child is even more awkward.

Talking about sex with your son who has autism goes beyond awkward and into the realm of “How the heck am I even going to start to explain this to him?”

That’s where I am right now. My son has high-functioning autism, he’s almost 10, and I’m pretty sure he’s about to start going through puberty. He’s always been big for his age, and the pediatrician warned me he might go through puberty early; looks like his prediction is coming true. Lucky me. The first thing I did was reach out to other moms of kiddos with autism to see if they had any advice. They all had advice for how to get him to take care of his hygiene, but none of them had any real advice on how to talk to him about sex and all the things that go along with it. Most of them seem surprised that I even wanted to tell him about that when he was so young.

I’m a single mom, and my son has special needs – both of those factors increase the chances that he’ll be sexually abused. I am not going to withhold information from him about healthy sexuality (that could prevent abuse from happening) just because I feel awkward.

Lucky for me, I work at Saprea, and I have access to people who could help me figure out how to traverse this new milestone in autism mothering. I would love to give you a list of ten amazing things I was able to do that made everything clear to him and allowed him to understand everything perfectly, but I can’t. Like everything with parenting, I’m doing my best and hoping some of it works! Here are three things I’ve tried so far and how they worked for us.

01 - We Read Books Together

My son loves to read, so I thought this might be a great place to start. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of books about puberty for boys and none that I’ve been able to find for kids with special needs. Two books that have been helpful are Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys by Cara Natterson. We read them together. He wanted to skip some things or got embarrassed about some of it, but we had lots of good conversations, and he was able to get the information in a way that made sense to him. I felt comfortable giving him the Guy Stuff book and letting him read it on his own, but I felt like I needed to read Sex is a Funny Word with him because it is a little more sex-related (obviously), and I wanted to be there to explain things to him.
Pros: The information was accurate, the illustrations were fun, and we were able to talk about respect, consent, and what a relationship should look like. I learned a lot about what he wants his future relationships to look like.
Cons: He now blames everything on puberty. He actually said to me, “Mom, my butt itches. I think it might be puberty.”
Conclusion: This was the easiest thing I did, but he didn’t want to keep doing it every night. Now we touch on it about every other week.

02 - We Talked About It

I sat him down and tried to ask questions and start a conversation. I’ll be honest – this was doomed from the start. He was not interested in having a “boring” conversation with me. He hates talking anyway but talking to his mom about love, sex, and relationships were (apparently) the worst topic possible.
Pros: I was able to tell him that he can talk to me about any of this kind of stuff whenever he wants.
Cons: You can’t have a conversation with a kid who doesn’t like to talk, so it was a lot of me talking and him listening or me asking questions and him being annoyed I wouldn’t leave him alone.
Conclusion: This doesn’t work for a kiddo who doesn’t talk or has a difficult time talking. But I tried it, and that’s what matters!

03 - I Talk About It in Front of Him, but Not to Him

My son always listens attentively, even when I’m not talking to him. I decided to use that to my advantage and talk about sexuality, puberty, relationships, and healthy interactions when he was around. I brought it up with friends and family members – different topics and subjects each time – and discussed with them all the things I wanted him to know about.
Pros: The words were said (so I know he’s at least hearing them), and it helped other people in my life get used to talking about healthy sexuality.
Cons: I don’t know what he wants to know more about or if he has any questions. And I have no idea what information he’s taking away from these overheard conversations.
Conclusion: I have no idea how effective this is, but I can tell he’s listening. It also gave me the opportunity to learn what other moms and people I care about think about various things, and I loved talking about it with them. This parenting thing is hard and having a child with special needs brings its own challenges. Don’t excuse yourself or your child from learning about healthy sexuality just because it’s difficult to talk about. If you learn nothing else from me, I hope you’ll take away the lesson that it’s worth trying. Just keep trying.

Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg
Disclaimer: As an Amazon affiliate, Saprea gets a small commission if you buy from these links that help to support our cause at no extra cost to you.