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Signs & Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse

Stages of Healthy Sexual Development

Preventing Abuse Starts in the Home

Reporting Child Sexual Abuse

Signs & Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse*

Changes in a child's or teen's behavior can sometimes be clues that sexual abuse has occured. Behavior signs can also be associated with many other stresses that children experience as a result of family or school problems so don't immediately conclude that sexual abuse has occured.

Behavioral Changes
  • Expressed unwillingness or fear to be left in the care of a particular person or to play with a particular child.
  • Reluctance or fear of certain places, such as showers and bathrooms.
  • Change in the child's behavior when a particular person is present.
  • The use of new words to describe genitalia or sexual behavior.
  • Sudden self-consciousness about genitals.
  • Sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the age of the child.
  • Involving other children in sexual behaviors or using toys or dolls to act out sexual scenarios.
  • Discomfort or reluctance in giving details about time spent with another adult or child.
  • Regression to babyish habits, such as thumb-sucking.
  • Fearful behavior towards examination of the mouth.
  • Nightmares, bedwetting, fear of the dark, difficulty falling asleep, new fears.
  • Increase or decrease in appetite.

  • Physical Changes
  • Any irritation, abrasions, swelling, skin tears, bleeding or infection of the child's genitals or anus, or any unexplained injuries around the mouth.
  • Roughened or calloused area between the baby's buttocks may signal chronic rubbing of the area from sexual abuse.
  • Pregnancy or confirmation of a sexually transmitted disease in a child.
  • Vaginal or penile discharge, sometimes accompanied by unusual odor.
  • Urinary infection or difficulty with urination.
  • Headaches, stomach pain, loss of appetite, and sleeping problems.

  • These physical symptoms can sometimes indicate that sexual abuse has occured, but physical symptoms are often not present after sexual abuse. Like behavioral changes, these symptoms can be brought on by other stressors and events.

    *Information gathered from Program Materials.

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