Signs of Child Sexual Abuse to Look for

Sexual abuse is a serious crime and an unspeakable violation of a child. However, many children – especially younger ones – do not report these incidents. And far too many parents and caregivers simply don’t know the signs to look for. Understanding the signs of abuse will help get your child the help he or she needs. This, in turn, will allow you to hold the responsible party accountable for civil damages. The sexual abuse lawyers of Rueb Stoller Daniel are here to advocate for the justice your child deserves.

Parents should understand, first, that the presence of any one sign doesn’t necessarily indicate a child has been sexually abused. Nonetheless, one sign should invite a parent to further investigate whether there may be others. The presence of multiple signs is a strong indication that abuse has occurred or is occurring.

What Are the Signs of Child Sexual Abuse?

Children and adolescents who have been sexually abused may display signs such as:

  • Being excessively distracted and emotionally distant
  • Eating problems, including changes to appetite or difficulty eating
  • Mood changes such as anger, insecurity, depression, and withdrawal
  • Little interest in activities he or she once enjoyed
  • Unusual occurrences of nightmares
  • Displaying inappropriate knowledge of sexual topics
  • Has money, gifts, or toys for no reason
  • The child is secretive or unwilling to discuss certain things

Meanwhile, younger children may display these signs in addition to the above:

  • Infantile or child-like behavior such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting
  • Knows new facts or terminology about body parts
  • Displays inappropriate sexual knowledge in general
  • Talks about sexual topics with other children
  • Refuses to remove clothing at appropriate times such as toileting or bathing

Adolescents, meanwhile, have their own set of behaviors that often stem from sexual abuse. They include:

  • Cutting and other self-harming behaviors
  • Running away from home
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Sudden changes in dieting or eating
  • Unusual emotional changes such as sudden lack of closeness
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal attempts or ideation

There may even be physical signs of sexual abuse that a parent notices in a child. Examples are:

  • Soiling accidents that are not related to toilet training
  • Discoloration, pain, bleeding, or discharge in or around the genitals or anus
  • Painful urination or bowel movements

What Do You Do If a Child Shows Signs of Sexual Abuse?

Diagnosing the root causes of such behaviors is complicated. As mentioned above, children and adolescents can experience these behaviors for reasons other than sexual abuse. If you have questions, seek the advice of a trained child psychologist or other professional.

If there are signs that your child has been sexually abused, it’s important to take prompt action. It’s possible that the abuse is still occurring. The victim could suddenly take a turn for the worse and do something extremely harmful. Also, other children may be at risk of abuse if the abuser is not stopped. Call law enforcement or other civil authorities like social services if you have concerns. There are phone numbers to report child sexual abuse on many state government websites.

Abuse victims often need professional services throughout their lives to help them recover from their experiences. These can include the following (among others):

  • Medical treatment for injuries, including for sexually transmitted diseases
  • Therapy, counseling, and other mental health treatment
  • Medications to help treat depression and anxiety
  • Alcohol and drug rehabilitation to treat substance abuse and addictions

Help for Sexual Abuse Victims

These and other services are usually costly. But the burden to pay them should not be on the victim or the victim’s family. That’s where legal action becomes necessary. A sexual abuse lawsuit can hold the abuser, and anyone who covered up or permitted the abuse, financially liable.