Signs of Sexual Abuse in Kids

No child should ever have to experience sexual abuse at the hands of an adult or an older child. Unfortunately, sexual abuse is not uncommon amongst those 18 years of age and younger. If we look at data available from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), we can see that child protective services substantiates or finds evidence of a claim of child sexual abuse every nine minutes in this country. Here, we want to discuss the signs of sexual abuse in kids. By learning to recognize how the signs of child sexual abuse manifest themselves, you may be able to take steps to intervene and help a child sexual abuse survivor. It is important to understand that the signs of sexual abuse often differ based on age ranges. Younger survivors of sexual abuse will typically show different signs than older children, such as teenagers.

Sexual Abuse Warning Signs in Younger Kids

According to RAINN, we can see that it is not always easy to spot the signs of sexual abuse, typically because perpetrators of child sexual abuse take steps to hide their actions. Yes, there are some signs that are easier to spot than others that could be red flags, but an adult in a child’s life needs to be aware of signs and symptoms of sexual abuse that may not be very obvious.

As we discussed the signs of sexual abuse in younger children, we want to look at physical signs, behavioral signs, and emotional signs.

  • Physical signs:
    • Any trauma to the genital area, including bruising or bleeding
    • Torn, dirty, or bloody sheets come on to wear, or other clothing 
    • Unexplained or continual urinary tract infections 
    • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Emotional signs:
    • Changes in eating habits
    • Rapid mood swings or personality changes, including increased aggression
    • Decrease and self-confidence
    • Excessive fearfulness or worry
    • Loss or decrease in interest in school, friends, or other activities
    • Nightmares or fear of being alone
    • Self-harming behaviors (more common in older children)
  • Behavioral signs:
    • Excessive discussion about sexual topics
    • Keeping secrets or not talking as much as usual
    • Not wanting to be left alone with certain people
    • Regression to earlier behaviors that the child has grown out of (Thumbsucking or bedwetting)
    • Overly compliant behavior
    • Sexual behavior inappropriate for the child’s age
    • Spending an unusual amount of time by themselves
    • Trying to avoid removing clothing

When looking at this list, it can seem slightly overwhelming. In fact, some of the behaviors on this list may have nothing to do with a child being sexually abused by an adult or an older child. However, you need to trust your instincts and not ignore feelings if you think something seems off. If you suspect that your child has been sexually abused, you need to consider taking them to a doctor who specializes in these types of cases. If any sexual abuse was recent, a medical examination could uncover blood or DNA that could be used against a perpetrator.

If you discover that your child is a survivor of sexual abuse, you need to consider finding a skilled counselor that specializes in working with children in these circumstances and an Irvine sexual abuse attorney. The effects of child sexual abuse can be significant. It is not uncommon for children to experience lifelong trauma as a result of child sexual abuse. However, if you get help for a child as soon as possible, they can take the steps necessary to process what happened to them and hopefully move forward with little to no long-lasting repercussions.