As parents and caregivers we often are uncertain of what to look for when a child has been sexually abused. The thought or possibility that our child has been abused in any way is a parent’s biggest fear and often times a parent does not want to believe anything has occurred and overlooks the signs. Some behaviors that children exhibit may signal sexual abuse, however they also might just be a child having seen an adult movie or something they watched on television that has adult content. Try to remain calm but also look for the following signs that your child has been abused. These are some indicators, however it does not mean for sure that your child has been abused and a pediatrician or a mental health professional should be contacted in order to make an evaluation. Always better to err on the side of caution and be sure that your child is alright:
The signs of sexual abuse are the following:
Unusual discharge from the vagina or penis. Somtimes in kids this is a reaction to a change in laundry soap or their soap, however a pedicatrician should be contacted to be sure.
When your child is repeatedly touching themselves, whether this is at home in their bedroom or bathroom or when they are out in public. This does not mean when they casually touch themselves, all children will do this, I mean when they are compulsively touching themselves and they appear very anxious when they are doing so.
Stimulating themselves or having contact sexually with pets.
Repeatedly and compulsively drawing pictures of genitalia.
Playing with their feces. Children, especially preschoolers and very young children find this fascinating, however beyond this age it is not a fascination. It usually signals anger or having went though a traumatic event.
Engaging in oral sex, fondling, or sexual contact with another child. Sexual contact with a child much older or much younger is usually a sign for alarm, however when children “play doctor” or engage in “you show me mine and I will show me yours” is not usually a sign of sexual abuse. Most children are curious and will engage in trying to “play doctor” at some point. Stop this behavior and look carefully for any signs of abuse that may have occurred.
Lastly, when a child has significant anxiety around certain people they encounter or places that they have to go. Their fears or their anxieties should be discussed with them to try and ascertain exactly what is wrong. Don’t ask over and over repeatedly, this will cause them even more anxiety.
What should be done by a parent that is uncertain as to whether or not their child has been abused is to err on the side of caution. If you are just not sure that your child has been abused and you can not get a straight answer from your child, then ask your child’s pediatrician for an evaluation. If abuse is involved, contact a mental health professional for individual and family counseling immediately.