Signs that a child is being sexually abused are often present but sometimes they are difficult to distinguish from other signs of childhood stress or trauma.
of sexual abuse are not common however; when present they may include bruising, lacerations, bleeding, redness, and sores around the mouth, genitals or anus. Other physical signs that may be warning signs are urinary tract infections, STDs and abnormal discharges from genital areas.
Child sexual abuse victims can also show indirect physical signs such as, anxiety, headache and chronic stomach pain. They may have sleep difficulties.
Behavioral and emotional signs
are common reactions from sexually abused children. These may include withdrawal, fear, depression, unexplained anger /rebellion, and regression. There may be no symptoms or "too perfect" behavior. One of the most telling signs can be sexual behavior or language that is not age-appropriate. Changes in behavior are an indication that further exploration into cause of the change is needed. Some common results of trauma include nightmares, bedwetting, falling grades, bullying, and cruelty to animals, fire setting, runaway behavior and self harm.
The resiliency of the child, duration of abuse, relationship with the offender, level of family support, response by caregivers and other factors can determine the level of trauma the child experiences, as well as, long term consequences.
Use of alcohol or drugs at an early age may also be a sign of child sexual abuse.
Responses to child sexual abuse can vary widely from child to child.
All forms of child abuse should be reported to Department of Social Services (DSS) or the local Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in your area. If you suspect abuse you can call your local Child Advocacy Center or the child abuse intake department at the local DSS. The Life Crisis Center Helplines (410-749-4357/ 211 /1-800-422-0009)
are also a resource. Darkness to Light has a national child sexual abuse hotline for additional support @ 1-866-FOR-LIGHT.
If you or someone you know has experienced child sexual abuse (child or adult), no cost specialized counseling by trauma trained therapists is available by calling any LCC number above or 410-749-0771.
If a child discloses sexual abuse to you remain calm, listen empathically, let them know that they are not to blame and believe them. Make appropriate report and if needed call LCC for child sexual abuse services and assistance with healing.