Signs of sexual abuse
The sexual abuse of a child is something that occurs across all ethnic and socio-economic boundaries. The abuse often goes undiscovered because the child is afraid to talk about it. There are signs you can look for though. The presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring in a family; however, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination you should take a closer look at the situation and consider the possibility of child abuse. If the child is close to you and you are intimately familiar with their behavior, any sudden change in behavior may indicate a problem especially if the change in behavior includes anxiousness about going to a particular place or seeing a person or sudden behavior problems such as aggressiveness or extreme mood swings such as brooding, crying or fearfulness. You can read about other signs of child abuse, including physical and emotional child abuse, here.
Take all these signs into account before taking action.
There is a possibility of child abuse occurring if the child:
- Has difficulty walking or sitting
- Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
- Reports nightmares or bedwetting
- Experiences a sudden change in appetite
- Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
- Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
- Runs away
- Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:
- Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
- Depression, irritability, or anger
- Avoidance of specific people or places
- Is secretive and isolated
- Is jealous or controlling with family members
Again, remember that many child who have not been abused may demonstrate one or more of these signs but taken as a whole, these signs should set off a “red flag”.