Sexual abuse in children can be very traumatic not only to your child, but to you and your family as well. It is an experience that can have a lifelong physical, emotional, mental and psychological effect to your child.
Being knowledgeable of the warning signals may help you detect it in your child and may prevent more serious outcomes of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse is one of the types of child abuse that is defined as stimulation of a child for sexual pleasure of an adolescent or an adult person.
There are various forms of sexual abuse that can range from forcing a child to perform in sexual activities, indecent exposure of genitals to a child, showing pornographic pictures or videos to a child, forced actual sexual intercourse with a child, physical contact with the child’s private parts and genitals, mere viewing of the child’s private parts and genitals without physical contact or using a child to produce pornography in print or in video.
Child sexual abuse can result to injury and infection of the genitals, but more than the physical aspect, the psychological effects may be irreversible and cause overwhelming psychological problems including chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, poor self-esteem, dissociative personality disorders, neuroses, sexual disorders, behavior problems, self-destructive behavior, anti-social disorders and suicide. These disorders are hard to deal with and will pose a lifetime responsibility to the family.
There are general behavior patterns you may see in a child that might be signals of sexual abuse:
- Obvious sleep problems like night sweats and nightmares that when asked cannot be explained
- Seems odd and often have blank stares
- Displays a sudden change of eating habits like refusal to eat or extreme voracious eating
- Unexplainable mood swings and display of rage, fear or withdrawal
- Gives inappropriate comments that provoke discussion about sexual issues
- Scribbles and draws frightening sexual dreams and images
- Develops an unexplainable fear of certain places and people
- Refuses to discuss about matters related to an adult or older child
- Often talks about a specific older friend
- Often brings home money, toys or gifts
- Refers to own body as dirty and bad
- Expresses an adult-like sexual knowledge, language and behavior
Warning signals seen in younger children:
- Bed wetting or thumb sucking not appropriate for the child and which was never observed before
- Uses new and peculiar words for body parts
- Refuses to remove clothes during bath time, bed time, toileting and diapering
- Asks other children to play sexual games
- Mimics sexual acts with toys or stuffed animals
- Wetting accidents not related to toilet training
Warning signals seen in adolescents:
- Patterns of self injury
- Poor personal hygiene
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Has multiple sexual partners
- Runs away from home
- Depression and anxiety disorders
- Suicide attempts
- Fear of intimacy
- Eating and behavior disorders
There are also physical signs of sexual abuse and when this happens the damage may already be irreversible. Physical signs include pain, bluish discoloration, bleeding and discharges from the mouth, genitals or anus and painful urination or bowel movement.
Do not wait too long for proof or obvious signs, be vigilant and protect your child. Immediately create a safety plan and remember that the most effective plan of prevention is when there is no child to heal from the trauma of sexual abuse.