Signs of Sexual Abuse


  • Have a sudden fear of specific things, people, places (bathroom or the room where the abuse took place), etc.
  • Act out inappropriate sexual activity or display unusual interest in sexual matters. Have temper tantrums, especially coinciding with visits to places or interaction with certain people.
  • Display violent behavior such as kicking, hitting, bitingsurvivors feel extreme frustration and anger.
  • Have mood swings, hitting, withdrawal (abused children often feel alone and helpless and withdraw into a shell), culminating into depression.
  • Have difficulties with bed wetting or soiling.
  • Experience nightmares (monsters, being chased or bogey men), fear of going to bed, or sleepwalking.
  • Display physical symptoms of sexual abuse such as pain, itching, vaginal bleeding (bloodstains in panties or pajamas), discharge, redness in genital area, or bladder or kidney infections.
  • Have difficulty walking or sitting.
  • Experience stomach and digestive problems.
  • Complain of flulike symptoms or not feeling well.
  • Display listlessness (robotlike, sitting quietly and unemotionally until someone or something prompts the child to act).
  • Induce selfinflicted pain (head banging, hair pulling, nail biting, body cutting or carving, frequent accidents that cause bodily damage).
  • Display regressive behavior: baby talk, sudden clinging behavior.
  • Display sudden unexplained aggressiveness or rebellion.
  • Insert objects into genitals/rectum
  • Act out sexual behavior on dolls or toys.


Elementary School-Age Children

Elementary school-age children will display signs listed in Preschool and:

  • Complain about aches and pains, headaches and other psychosomatic ailments.
  • Have unusual knowledge and interest in sex beyond developmental level.
  • Display adult or sexualized behavior, (walking seductively, flirting, acting and talking like an adult).
  • Have a sudden drop in grades, difficulty concentrating.



Teenagers will display signs listed in Preschool, Elementary School-Age Children, and:

  • Have serious depression.
  • Have inability to trust others.
  • Act out selfdestructive behaviors: alcohol and/or drug use, eating disorders.
  • Bathe excessively.
  • Become secretive.
  • Develop strategies for protection such as: layering, wearing baggy or safetypinning clothes or sleeping on the floor in the closet, under the bed or blocking their door.
  • Act out pseudo maturity.
  • Acquire sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Have a dramatic increase in the frequency of masturbation or masturbation to the point of injury.
  • Act out promiscuously.
  • Experience serious confusion regarding sexual identity.
  • Have an aversion toward opposite sex.
  • Have sexual interest in younger children.

Because children often believe a perpetrator’s threats or feel shame and guilt, they fail to report episodes of abuse. Parents need to be vigilant for signs and symptoms. Do not accept simple, reasonable explanations on these issues.

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