The following characteristics may indicate the possibility that a child was sexually abused. Some sexually abused children do not exhibit these factors and some children who have never been sexually abused can exhibit these indicators. It can be very difficult to tell when a child is being sexually abused because, more often than not, children will not explicitly say they were abused. Therefore, it is important to notice changes in a child’s behavior, mood, actions, appearance, etc.
Behavioral Indicators of Abuse
- Sexual behavior that is unusual, bizarre, or sophisticated.
- Regression into a fantasy world or acting as though they have a mental handicap, such as demonstrating infantile behaviors.
- Acting out aggressively and displacing their negative feelings toward their perpetrator onto others.
- Having difficulty forming relationships with peers because of the guilt they feel.
- Attempting to escape the abuse through running away, which can be an indirect way for a child who feels powerless to ask for help.
- Having difficulty engaging in physical activities because it is painful to participate in active games and sit during school.
- Using drugs and alcohol to numb their guilt and anxieties.
- Alluding to their abuse indirectly by making comments such as, “I want someone to adopt me.”
- Exhibiting seductive behaviors with adults and peers because they view the sexual contact as a positive source of attention.
Physical Indicators of Abuse