Signs of Sexual Abuse
Children may react to the experience of abuse in very different ways depending on their personality, their age, gender, the nature of the abuse, and their relationship to the abuser. It is usual for children of all ages to play and experiment, and be curious about their own and each other’s bodies. A possible sign that a child may be experiencing sexual abuse however is sexual behavior that is not age appropriate.
As a general rule:
- Children 5 and under should not be talking about sexual acts or be using sexually explicit language. They should not be having physical sexual contact with other children or be showing adult like sexual behavior or knowledge.
- Children of school age (6-12) should not be showing adult like sexual behavior or knowledge
- Adolescents should not be having sexual contact with much younger children or older adults.
Concerning changes in behavior:
• Becoming withdrawn or very clingy
• Changes in their personality
• Using toys or objects in a sexual way
• Sudden changes in eating habits
• Showing inexplicable fear of certain people or places
• Going back to younger behaviors such as thumb sucking or bed wetting
• Becoming secretive and reluctant to share with people close to them
Possible physical signs of abuse:
• Pain or itching in the child’s genital area
• Frequent urinary tract infections
• Soreness or bruising around the child’s genitals
• Discharge or pain urinating