Signs of sexual abuse may not be as easy to detect in young children since they are often unable to understand or vocalize what happened to them as effectively as older kids. That’s why it’s important to know the signs, both physical and behavioral, that your child may have been sexually abused.
Physical Signs of Abuse
Dr. Karen Kay Imagawa outlines some of the physical symptoms that may be indicative of abuse.
- Irritation (rash, itching, bleeding, etc.) around anal or genital area
- Chronic upset stomach
- Pain when defecating and/or urinating
- Frequent headaches
- Non-specific symptoms (child often complains of not feeling well)
The presence of any of the aforementioned signs is not proof-positive that molestation has occurred and any could be caused by several factors not related to sexual abuse. You’ll have to consider them in conjunction with other possible signs and use your best judgment. If you have any suspicions, take your child to a health care professional right away.
Behavioral Signs of Abuse
Imagawa also points out that there are certain behavioral signs that parents should watch for. If a child is displaying any of the following behaviors, a professional should evaluate him or her as soon as possible.
- Child has detailed knowledge about genitalia and/or sexuality that he or she did not learn from any known source.
- Child displays an unusual interest or fascination with things of a sexual nature.
- They start showing signs of uncharacteristic bedwetting.
- They show overly aggressive and/or withdrawn behavior.
- They are acting out sexual scenarios while playing with other kids.
- Their behavior is noticeably different for no apparent reason.
- Child acts nervous or scared a lot.
- Child becomes more whiny or clingy than usual.
Of course, the biggest indicator of whether a child has been sexually abused is when they tell you that something is going on. If your child tells you that someone has touched them inappropriately, you should always assume they are telling the truth. Attorney and legal activist Robin Sax says, “believe your kids first.” Young children rarely lie about these kinds of things. She also says that parents should trust their instincts and that if something doesn’t seem right, they should investigate further.
If you have any suspicion that your child has been sexually abused, contact your doctor immediately. If abuse has occurred, it’s vitally important to remove your child from the dangerous situation right away. Even one incident of sexual abuse can cause lasting psychological damage, so getting professional help is imperative. Do not try to “handle” the situation yourself. Reach out to experts who can best help you protect your child from further abuse and effectively facilitate the healing process.