Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse can be difficult to spot, but being aware of the warning signs can keep you ahead of the situation. According to RAINN, “Every 9 minutes, government authorities respond to another report of child sexual abuse.” That means that one in ten children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. It is not fair but it is important to be aware of how common it is and how to recognize if it is happening to someone you know.

Physical warning signs:

Physical warning signs can be the first things you see. However, there are also indirect physical warning signs. To name a few:

  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Random bruising or irritation in the genital area
  • Blood or other uncommon fluids appearing on the child’s bed
  • Intense stomach pain or headaches that the trauma could be causing

Behavioral/Emotional warning signs:

Every child will react to this trauma in different ways. If your child starts to suddenly behave or react differently, it’s something to be concerned about.

  • Nightmares and bedwetting
  • Feeling uncomfortable when changing clothes or getting undressed
  • Being afraid to be left alone with certain people
  • Being overly-attached to a parent or guardian
  • Spending a suspicious amount of time with an adult or individual
  • Displaying inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Displaying “too perfect” behavior
  • Showing signs of extreme anxiety or fear
  • Unexplained anger or rebellion
  • Depression or withdrawal
  • Talk or knowledge about sexual topics
  • Bullying or being bullied
  • Falling behind in school
  • Self-harm or suicidal tendencies or thoughts

Things to look for in possible perpetrator:

90% of the time, the victim knows the perpetrator in one way or another. Make sure you are being aware of who is spending time with the child and if they are overstepping boundaries. Here are a few red flags to be aware of concerning child sexual abuse:

  • Treats the child as a friend or tries to get close to the child
  • Talks about relationships with the child
  • Does not have age appropriate relationships/spends time with a lot of children
  • Shows interest in child’s development and sexualizes normal behavior
  • Gives the child gifts for no apparent reason
  • Touches the child inappropriately

Addressing the situation: communicating with the child

These warning signs of child sexual abuse will give you more insight on studying suspicious situations. Sexual abuse is not easy to discuss with children, but it is important. You may never think it could be happening in your family but unless you address it, you may never know. Most of the time, children will not feel the need to talk about it because they don’t understand it is wrong. The perpetrator may even be telling the child to keep it a secret, or in worse cases, threatening them. Keeping an open and trusting relationship and coming to the child with clarity and patience will influence the child’s response. Talking to them about sexual abuse and making it clear to them that it is something wrong is important. Don’t be scared to take these steps and more. It is the safest thing to do.