Signs of Child Sex Abuse

Signs of Sexual AbuseTHEY DON’T KNOW. Some childhood victims cannot remember being sexually abused. A very young child may not even understand that the abuser is doing something wrong, after all it’s usually a person they know, who is supposed to be caring for them.

THEY DON’T TELL. Abusers often threaten the child to keep the sexual encounters a secret. The child may be convinced that harm will come to them or their family should they tell. This form of emotional blackmail adds blame, shame, and guilt to the trauma as well as an irrational fear about getting their abuser in trouble.

It is estimated that in at least half the cases, a child is also physically abused while being violated. These children may feel responsible for the sexual contact and trapped in the ‘secret’ leaving them helpless and powerless. In addition, they may feel as though they are bad, unworthy of being loved and that no one will believe them because they did not come forward after the first incident.

THEY WANT JUSTICE. Survivors who have disclosed the molestation, said that first and foremost they wanted to be believed and that somehow, someday, in some way they hoped that justice would be served on the perpetrator.

Regardless of how the trauma of the abuse is dealt with by the victim, it does not necessarily fade over time or with age. In fact, 90% of victimized children never report the abuse. False reports made by children are rare. False reports are usually associated with adults embroiled in custody disputes.

THEY ACT OUT. It is because the vast majority of victims never tell anyone – EVER – about the abuse they have suffered, that it is vitally important that parents and responsible adults be hyper vigilant, acutely observant and aware of the signs of abuse and have the courage to intervene in a timely manner on behalf of our most vulnerable citizens.

 Possible Physical Signs of Sexual Abuse
  • Unexplained injuries, such as pain, swelling, itching bruising, or discharge in the genital area
  • Unusual bleeding around mouth, or has trouble swallowing
  • Problems walking or sitting
  • Persistent, frequent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements
  • Bleeding or blood stained undergarments
  • Resists removing clothing at bath/bed time, or toileting/diapering
  • Fear of intimacy or closeness
  • Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Mimics adult-like sexual behaviors with toys or stuffed animal
  • Talks about a new older friend and has new words for private body parts
  • Asks other children to behave sexually or play sexual games
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Underage pregnancy

 Possible Behavioral & Emotional Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Changes in behavior or sudden mood swings, increased withdrawal, insecurity, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sadness, fear, anger, or uncontrolled rage
  • Regressive behaviors such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking or changes in toilet training habits
  • Seems unexpectedly or unusually distracted or distant
  • Asks questions or makes comments to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
  • Unexplained nightmares or other sleep disturbances
  • Changes in eating habits, refuses to eat, increase in appetite, compulsive eating/dieting disorders, or weight gain/loss
  • Difficulties in school such as excessive absences or extreme over achievement
  • Suddenly has money, toys or other gifts for no apparent reason
  • A sudden dislike of a specific person or place, reluctance to go home, attempts running away from home
  • Thinks they themselves or their body is repulsive, dirty or bad and exhibits inadequate personal hygiene
  • Sexual knowledge or behavior inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Excessive alcohol or substance abuse
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as cutting, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

 If you suspect a child is being abused, contact authorities or national child abuse hotlines and online help