The topic of sexual abuse in children can be difficult to discuss. But even though this is a subject of concern for anyone who cares about the wellbeing of children, most people do not know how to recognize the signs that a child has been abused.
Children are often reluctant or unwilling to tell an adult about what has happened, and very young children may not be able to speak up. Therefore, every adult, whether they are a parent or not, should understand the warning signs of sexual abuse in children.
Here are a few common warning signs that may indicate that a child has been abused.
Unexplained Physical Trauma
It’s normal for children to get a few bumps and bruises. This can happen simply from playing outdoors with friends, tripping and falling, or playing a sport. But what if your child or a child that you are responsible for has bruises, bleeding, cuts, or other physical trauma from unexplained origins?
Maybe they aren’t willing to tell you what happened, or the location of the bruises has given you cause for concern. Unexplained physical trauma can be a sign that something more serious is going on.
Excessive Knowledge of Sexual Topics
Some older children have learned about sexual topics from conversations with their parents. For example, a curious child might ask, “Where do babies come from?”
Their parents will generally try to give an age-appropriate answer. But a child with excessive knowledge of sexual topics may have been a victim of sexual abuse. They might try to talk about these subjects at inappropriate times, simply because they do not realize why it’s taboo.
Refusal to be Alone
Perhaps your child has been trying to avoid seeing a certain relative, teacher, or coach. They might not open up and explain why, but they may drop hints, and you can tell by their body language that they are uncomfortable with being in the same room as this person, even if they did not have hesitation previously.
The dynamic has changed, but you can’t pinpoint why. Alternatively, a previously independent child might suddenly refuse to leave the side of the parents or other primary caregivers. They may not want to be around adults whom they don’t know anymore out of fear.
A child who has suffered through sexual abuse may exhibit regressive behaviors. For instance, a child who stopped sucking their thumb might start again. As another example, a child who had stopped wetting the bed months or years before might suddenly start bedwetting again.
Parents might be confused and concerned, but the root cause of the behavior will probably not be obvious right away. Many people do not realize that this is actually a common sign of sexual abuse in children.
Because of the lack of knowledge around this particular warning sign, parents may not know how to respond to regressive behaviors.
Maybe your child used to be an open book. They would happily tell you about their day, the new friends they made at school, and what they were excited about. But recently, they haven’t been so chatty.
Instead, they’ve been relatively quiet, and they try to avoid answering your questions. They might try to spend more time alone in their room at home, and they may not seem interested in hanging out with their friends anymore.
There can be many reasons why a child could feel a need for more privacy. But this can be a red flag for sexual abuse.
Are you concerned that your child has been a victim of sexual abuse? It’s time to seek professional guidance. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for child therapy.