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Signs of Sexual Abuse, Molestation and Exploitation of Children

Signs of Sexual Abuse, Molestation and Exploitation of Children

Parents, grandparents, and guardians should be aware of the signs noted below that could indicate your child has been sexually exploited. You should note that some of these behaviours may have other explanations, but it is important to help your child no matter what the cause of these symptoms or behaviours.   Resources and help can be obtained through school systems, law enforcement, and child protection agencies. Sexual abuse signs must be assessed in combinations; no one sign is enough to indicate that abuse has or is taking place. I cannot give you guidance about how many signs should be present to warrant suspicion, because every case is different. If you have suspicions, report them.

Important Note: In Canada, if a person has suspicions or actual knowledge of child abuse because he/she has either seen abuse occur or has been told abuse occurred, that person must report the abuse under the duty to report law. Failure to report could lead to charges and fines.

Children Signs and Behaviours

Children often do not tell us with words that they have been sexually abused or that they have successfully resisted an assault and don’t know quite what to do next. There are many reasons children might hesitate or be afraid to tell us about what has happened, including their relationship to the offender, fear of the consequences, retaliation or uncertainty about whether or not they will be believed.

If you observe any of these behaviours, it is important to try and determine the cause. Behavioural changes such as these may be due to causes other than sexual molestation such as a medical, family, or school problem. Also, keep in mind that sometimes children do not always demonstrate obvious signs such as these but may do or say something that suggests the child may be a victim of sexual molestation. Any one of the following signs could indicate that there has been a sexual assault or it could be indicative of another problem. Whatever has caused the change in behaviour should be explored.

Physical Indicators

  • Abnormal dilation of vaginal or rectal openings
  • Blood in urine
  • Bruises on breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen, thighs, genital and/or rectal areas
  • Complaints of pain or itching in genital or anal areas
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty in bladder or bowel control
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Limping, multiple or poorly explained injuries
  • Frequent sore throats; difficulty swallowing; choking
  • Pain or discomfort on urination
  • Pain or itching in genital area
  • Physical trauma such as redness, rashes, and/or bleeding to oral, genital and/or anal areas
  • Pregnancy
  • Severe psychosomatic complaints such as stomach-aches and headaches
  • Sexually transmitted diseases found vaginally, rectally or orally
  • Venereal disease, especially in preteens
  • Stained or bloody underwear
  • Torn clothing
  • Unusual or offensive body odours
  • Yeast or bacterial infections

Behavioural Indicators in Child

Children often do not tell us with words that they have been sexually abused or that they have successfully resisted an assault and don’t know quite what to do next. There are many reasons children might hesitate or be afraid to tell us about what has happened, including their relationship to the offender, fear of the consequences, retaliation or uncertainty about whether or not they will be believed.

Any one of the following signs could indicate that there has been a sexual assault or it could be indicative of another problem. Whatever has caused the change in behaviour should be explored.

  • A sudden change in personality
  • A sudden acting out of feelings or aggressive or rebellious behaviour
  • Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters
  • Sleep problems, including: insomnia, nightmares, refusal to sleep alone or suddenly insisting on a night light
  • A fear of certain places, people, or activities
  • Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, or other sleep disturbances
  • Bizarre or unusual sophistication pertaining to sexual behaviour or knowledge, including sexual acting out
  • Changes in behaviour, extreme mood swings, withdrawal, fearfulness, and excessive crying
  • Changes in toilet-training habits
  • Difficult, uncomfortable or rejection of typical family affection
  • Inappropriate displays of affection
  • Problems in school
  • School or behavioural problems
  • Promiscuous behaviour
  • Regressive behaviours, including: thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, infantile behaviours or other signs of dependency

·         Extreme clinginess or other signs of fearfulness

  • Reports sexual assault by parent or guardian
  • Runs away from home
  • Sexualized behaviour that is inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Sudden reluctance to go someplace or be with someone
  • Sudden use of sexual terms or new names for body parts
  • Sudden weight gain or extreme weight loss
  • Unwilling to participate in or change clothing for gym class at school

Note: Any one of the following signs could indicate that there has been a sexual assault or it could be indicative of another problem. Whatever has caused the change in behaviour should be explored.

Parent-Guardian-Adult Signs and Behaviours

Indicators of Sexually Abusive Parent/Guardian

•               Abuses alcohol or other drugs

•               Encourages exhibitionism in child

•               Encourages the child in promiscuous and/or prostitute acts

•               Exposes child to pornographic and sexually stimulating pictures

•               Freely talks or boasts about sexual themes with child

•               Overly protective or jealous of child and friends

•               Voyeuristic, seductive to child

Note: Any one of the following signs could indicate that there has been a sexual assault or it could be indicative of another problem. Whatever has caused the change in behaviour should be explored

Source: http://www.child-abuse-effects.com/sexual-abuse-signs.html

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