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Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse

Child Sexual Abuse Investigator in Greensboro, NC

Realizing that a child is not acting like himself is one of the worst scenarios imaginable. This could mean anything – maybe he just had a bad day at school, maybe he’s feeling ill, or maybe it’s something much worse. With the incidents of reported sexual abuse on the rise, this might be one of the first things that comes to mind. Recent studies have shown that between 200,000 and 500,000 children are victims of sexual assault or abuse each year.

The first image that jumps to a person’s mind when they hear the term “child sexual abuse” is that of a young girl. While young girls certainly are at risk, young boys are also potential victims. Another widely overlooked group of potential sexual abuse victims is children with special needs. These children actually have an increased risk of abuse.

If you are a parent, a teacher, or are employed in any profession in which you come into contact with children, it is important that you understand and are able to spot the signs of sexual abuse. Keep in mind, though, that only one of these symptoms is not conclusive evidence of abuse; some signs might just be typical for certain children even if they aren’t normal for others. However, if a combination of these signs is present, you could reasonably suspect that that child is being sexually abused.

The signs and symptoms of sexual abuse can be broken down into two categories, physical and behavioral.

Physical Indicators:

  • Child complains of pain, irritation, or itching in the genital or rectal area
  • Stained, bloody, or torn underclothes
  • Evidence of trauma (such as bruises and bleeding) of the genital or rectal area
  • Child has a difficult time walking or sitting
  • Child has a sexually transmitted disease

Behavioral Indicators:

  • Child seems to have bizarre, unusual, or sophisticated sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Child acts seductively towards classmates, teachers, or other adults, masturbates excessively, and/or has sleep disturbances (such as bed wetting or nightmares)
  •  Child is afraid of specific people or places
  • Child becomes withdrawn, depressed, or demonstrates a sudden change in behavior or personality
  • Child begins to eat either too much or too little
  • Child regresses to immature behaviors, including pants-wetting and thumb-sucking
  • Child cries without reason, has feelings of low self-worth, and/or demonstrates over-aggressiveness

It is important to keep in mind not only the child’s outward symptoms but also the family dynamics, as these can play an important role in determining whether or not a child is actually being sexually abused.

Family Dynamics:

  • A history of sexual abuse or assault in the family
  • The suspected abuser acts protective, jealous, and/or dominant over the child
  • The suspect abuses drugs and/or alcohol
  • The suspected perpetrator lacks social contacts outside the family and turns to the child for his/her emotional and physical needs

If you notice that many of these signs and symptoms are present in a child you know, you may consider calling the authorities or hiring a private investigator to look investigate your concerns.

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