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What are some warning signs of sexual abuse?

Signs of sexual abuse are not always clear, however, there are signs that may indicate a child is experiencing abuse. If you notice a child experiencing several of the symptoms listened below, you should talk to your child.

Physical signs:

  • Pain or itching in the genital area
  • Bruises or bleeding in external genitalia
  • Venereal disease
  • Nightmares or other sleep disturbances
  • Frequent stomach illness with no identifiable reason
  • Loss of appetite, or trouble eating or swallowing
  • Frequent genital or urinary tract infections or irritations
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing

Behavioral signs:

  • An increase in physical complaints
  • Problems with bedtime or fear of going to sleep
  • Fear of certain people or places (example: not wanting to be left alone with a babysitter)
  • Regression to infantile behaviors such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting
  • Abnormal interest in sex or knowledge of sexual matters inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Preoccupation with their body or masturbation
  • Bedwetting — especially if it begins in a child who has been dry
  • Sexual activities with toys or other children, such as simulating sex with dolls or asking other children/siblings to behave sexually
  • Using new words for private body parts
  • Refusing to talk about a ‘secret’ he/she has with an adult or older child

Emotional signs:

  • Unexplained fear or dislike of certain people or places depression or withdrawal
  • Lack of confidence
  • Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, anger, or withdrawal