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What Are the Signs of Child Sexual Abuse?

Article Details
  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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There are several physical and emotional signs which can indicate child sexual abuse. Changes in a child’s behavior, including projected self-esteem; changes in relationships with others; and changes in point of view about bodies and sex can also indicate the possibility of abuse. Some physical signs of abuse may be discovered via physical examination by a doctor. The signs may also become apparent due to the development of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease in a child who is very young or not believed to be sexually active. A child may also complain of or display physical signs of trauma.

Physical signs of child sexual abuse can include both direct damage from the abuse and stress-related illnesses. An abused child may have frequent, unexplained stomach problems or suddenly begin wetting the bed. If the abuse has resulted in a sexually transmitted disease, odors and signs of infection can develop. Sometimes there will be signs of general trauma to the genitals. There may also be pain in the genitals which increases with defecation or urination.

Behavioral changes related to potential child sexual abuse include increased aggression towards others and feelings of disgust over the cleanliness of their own bodies. A child may also become depressed and secretive, withdrawing from family, friends, and favorite activities. If the child suddenly becomes wary of a particular person or place, this could also indicate a problem. Difficulties sleeping — especially from nightmares and frequent waking during the night — are other common signs of abuse.

A sexually abused child may also begin to demonstrate an overly sophisticated knowledge of sex. They may write or draw sexually suggestive material. Abused children can also masturbate excessively and engage in sex play with other children and inanimate objects. Excessive curiosity about sex at a young age can indicate abuse as well.

Sometimes the most prominent sign of child sexual abuse is simply the feeling that something is not right with the child. Even if the common signs of abuse do not present themselves, if a child has undergone a dramatic, unexplained personality change or seems disturbed, it is advisable to investigate further. This can be accomplished by making gentle inquiries of the child to determine if there is a problem. A great deal can also be learned from careful observation of the child and the people in his or her life. If there appears to be a change in a key relationship in particular, further investigation may be warranted.

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