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Sexual Abuse Warning Signs to watch in your child

  • JWB Post
  •  April 14, 2015

Yesterday we published the post how to help your spouse if he/she reveals sexual abuse in childhood.  While adults can gain the courage to share the incident and seek help, children rarely can figure out what’s happening to them is wrong.

Stop It Now! has developed a warning signs tip sheet to help identify possible warning signs. Any one sign does not mean that a child was sexually abused, but the presence of several suggests that you begin asking questions and consider seeking help.

Behavior you may see in a child or adolescent that should alert you:

  • Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation
  • Seems distracted or distant at odd times
  • Has a sudden change in eating habits
  • Refuses to eat
  • Loses or drastically increases appetite
  • Has trouble swallowing
  • Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity, or withdrawal
  • Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
  • Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places
  • Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
  • Writes, draws, plays, or dreams of sexual or frightening images
  • Talks about a new older friend
  • Suddenly has money, toys, or other gifts without reason
  • Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty, or bad
  • Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language, and knowledge

Behavior more typically found in adolescents (teens):

  • Self-injury (cutting, burning)
  • Inadequate personal hygiene
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Running away from home
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Suicide attempts
  • Fear of intimacy or closeness
  • Compulsive eating or dieting

All of the warning signs listed above are general indicators of sexual abuse in children. Many children do not actually disclose what happened; it is up to attentive adults to recognize hints. However, if you suspect a child has been abused by seeing these indications, or if he or she hints at abuse or outright discloses sexual abuse, seek help.

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