As a parent, you try to be a friend, protector, teacher – in short, everything for your children.
Whether there is something that is troubling them or they need help – parents are always there for them. But what if something is troubling your child that they are unable to tell?
Sexual abuse is one such thing that children find difficult to communicate; with 1 in 10 children facing such abuse before their 18th birthday, the issue is far more prevalent than we think. In fact, for younger girls, this number increases by 20%.
It’s also alarming to note that sexual abuse has been correlated with long-term adverse effects that can develop into major psychological and physical problems – such as depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and marital issues.
Your child’s protection is your utmost priority and if they have been subject to this inhumane practice, the offenders should be served justice. Not only does this stop the offender from even thinking about doing the same with anybody else, it can also have a positive influence on your child’s recovery.
This is why this article will outline behavioral signs that children subject to abuse are likely to show.
What Are The Signs Of Child Sexual Abuse?
Every child reacts differently to sexual abuse; while some may become increasingly shy and quiet, others have been reported to indulge in self-harm.
While some of these signs may overlap with common problems, it is better to be safe than sorry – particularly when it comes to your child.
Here are some common signs of sexual abuse and trauma:
These relate to changes in behavior that can be attributed to sexual abuse – and not all of them are dramatic, most are quite subtle.
In fact, some children naturally exhibit some of these signs; it is important to be aware of your child’s sexual development to make sure you know whether the signs are natural or not.
Here are some behavioral signs that may mean your child has been a victim of sexual abuse:
- A sudden urge to act younger than their age or indulge in activities that they are too young for An abrupt change in their personality and behavior – such as excessive crying, emotional vulnerability, etc.
- A newfound fear of being alone or left behind with a certain person
- Unexplained fear of certain places or people – this may involve developing a fear of places that are all similar (dark and gloomy) or people that display a certain characteristic (such as people who wear caps)
- Apprehensive about being touched, particularly in sensitive areas
- A decline in their academic and/or co-curricular performance
- Displaying careless behavior regarding hygiene or their well-being that may result in injuries or physical harm
- Indulging in physical harm
- Imitating older-than-age sexual behavior with friends, toys or pets
- A newfound interest in their private body parts – may include excessive touching, staring, etc.
- Abrupt onset of nightmares or other sleep issues that cannot be explained logically
- Drawing diagrams that depict sexual content
- Recent interest in human sexuality – such as age-inappropriate questions about genitals, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, etc.
In addition to behavioral changes that a child may or may not exhibit, parents should also keep an eye out for physical signs that may indicate sexual abuse.
Here are some of the signs that may point out a problem:
- Sudden changes in their diet – eating too much or too less than usual
- Not being able to sleep at night
- A sudden increase in lazy behavior – which may include clumsiness, lack of hygiene, etc.
- Regression towards outgrown behavior, such as wetting their bed or clothes – or an increase in such occurrences if it happens already
- Unexplained stomach-aches and pain
- Pain or itching in their private parts
- Bloody discharge from their private areas or underwear that you find stained with blood
- Rectal bleeding
- Problems with walking, laying down or even sitting
Some signs are even more subtle than behavioral or physical changes; as an extreme trauma for their delicate age, sexual abuse can have a highly adverse impact on a child’s psychology.
Here are some psychological signs that may signal a problem:
- Severe anxiety or depression – such as unwillingness to go out or extreme anxiety when meeting strangers
- A rapid shift in mood – this can include increased aggressiveness towards siblings, pets, friends or even parents
- Increase in rebellious behavior that is not appropriate for their age
- A sudden disinterest towards academic or other interests, such as sports or friends
- Avoiding relationships entirely due to poor self-esteem, the inability to make friends or perceiving themselves as inferior
- Showing advanced sexual knowledge that is not in accordance with their age or learning
- A display of near-perfect behavior where the child is very compliant towards their parents or other authority figures
Taking Action Might Not Be Easy – But It’s Very Important
Children are usually very reluctant to disclose sexual abuse due to various reasons – they can be scared, struggling with low esteem or simply ashamed of the encounter.
It is not easy to identify such incidents, but as parents, you need to prioritize the well-being of your child above any other person. Remember, with 93% of child sexual abuse perpetrators being known to the victim, it is often someone close in the friends or family circle.
Most importantly, listen to your child; if they tell you that something is making them feel uncomfortable, don’t take a risk. Sit down with them and allow them to talk to you openly – and in case you sense something suspicious, seek immediate help from sources around you.