Archive for the ‘Sexual Abuse’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Signs that a child has been sexually abused

A tough question that is often asked of medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists, is do you think my child has been sexually abused?  It is very difficult for parents to think that this may have occurred to their child and will say, “but I don’t let her go anywhere except to family’s house or our friends.”  The painful fact is that sexual abuse of children is usually from a close family member or friend. 

When children or teens display inappropriate behaviors or make sexual remarks, parents are often at a loss to determine if this is from something they have heard their friends say or seen on the television set, or if something has happened to their child.  Whether a child is very young or even an older child, they usually can not or will not verbalize abuse from a perpetrator. 

There are many physical signs and symptoms associated with sexual abuse, however we will focus on the behavioral or emotional signs that are seen in a child that has been sexually abused.  

The most common symptom for children is sleep disturbance or more specifically nightmares.  They don’t seem to be able to be explicit in describing what is happening in their dreams but they do know that “it is bad.”  Children that have been abused have advanced knowledge beyond their years about sex and they often act very seductive or sexually inappropriate around adults.  They are usually angry and either will cry or they are aggressive towards younger children without exactly knowing why they are behaving in that manner.  Often times in younger children they  display regressed behaviors, such as talking like a baby or they start wetting the bed.  In older children, they will often begin finding places in the house in which to touch themselves or masturbate. 

Other symptoms that may be present are self-mutilation, usually seen in older children, lying or stealing, sudden changes in behavior, running away from home, eating disorders, excessive fears, drugs/alcohol, or threatening to kill themselves.  There is no one sign/symptom or behavior that is proof that a child has been sexually abused, however these are some key symptoms for parents to look for to help them determine if abuse has occurred.  As always, a professional whether it is a pediatrician, psychiatrist, or a mental health professional should be consulted in order to assist with the behavioral/emotional symptoms that are being displayed.