Signs of Sexual Abuse in Teens

The sexual abuse of any person is appalling and should never occur. Unfortunately, the sexual abuse of teenagers is not uncommon in California and throughout the US. Data available from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) indicates that around 66% of all survivors of sexual abuse under the age of 18 range between the ages of 12 and 17.

Here, we want to look at the signs of sexual abuse in teenagers. It is important to discuss how these signs of sexual abuse manifest differently in teenagers than they do in younger children, particularly because the signs may be mistaken for natural hormonal/behavioral changes that occur at this age range. Adults need to be vigilant when taking steps to help teenage survivors of sexual abuse.

Signs That a Teenager May Have Been Sexually Abused

The vast majority of child sexual abuse occurs with teenagers. According to RAINN, we can see that spotting the warning signs of sexual abuse in teens can be very challenging. That is because the signs and symptoms of teenage sexual abuse can easily be mistaken for the everyday struggles that teens face as they grow up and deal with friends, their environment, and their own bodily changes. RAINN suggests that the adult in a child’s life need to trust their instincts. If something seems off or not quite right, take these feelings seriously.

Some of the most common warning signs that a teenager has been sexually abused include the following:

  • Unusual weight loss or weight gain
  • Unhealthy eating patterns, including excessive eating or not eating at all
  • Obvious signs of physical abuse, such as bruising or bleeding
  • Sexually transmitted infections or other genital infections
  • Signs of depression, including changes in sleep or appetite, withdrawal from activities, or persistent sadness 
  • Constant anxiety or worrying
  • Failing grades in school
  • Changes in self-care, including lack of care about hygiene, appearance, or fashion
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Discussion about suicide or suicidal behavior
  • Drinking or drug usage

In addition to the signs of sexual abuse mentioned above, parents and guardians also need to be on the lookout for signs that their teenager may be in an abusive relationship. This can be a challenging time for teenagers, who are often new to dating. They may not understand what healthy sexual relationships look like, and they might not recognize the signs of sexual abuse. Parents and guardians should talk to their teenagers about signs that a partner may be trying to get them to engage in unwanted sexual behavior. 

What to do if Sexual Abuse has Occurred

If you discover that a teenager has been the victim of sexual abuse, there are various steps that you can take to help them. First, encourage a non-judgmental and open dialogue. The teenager may not want to talk about what has happened, and that is okay. If the situation is an emergency or if there are any injuries, you need to encourage the teenager to go to the hospital with you as soon as possible. It may be necessary to get blood samples or DNA for a sexual assault kit to help with any potential criminal or civil case that could arise.

Teenage sexual abuse victims may benefit from speaking to a counselor who has experience handling these situations. The effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime, but a teenager who works with a therapist and takes the steps necessary to help process what has happened can move forward with a  healthy lifestyle. 

Finally, speak with a sexual abuse attorney. An Irvine sexual abuse attorney from Callahan & Blaine can help walk you through the process of taking the necessary legal actions.