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eGuide Archives: Warning signs/symptoms of sexual abuse

The Child Protection eGuide
An electronic publication of Survivors And Victims Empowered
Volume 2, Issue 5
February 5, 2009

Tip of the Week:
The best way to deal with child sexual abuse is still prevention. Most predators know their victims. If your child is ever reluctant to spend time with a particular adult, especially one who you believe has always been "so nice" to them, trust his or her instincts. Pay particular attention if an older child seems protective of a younger sibling around a particular person.

 Other Resources:

Warning signs/symptoms of sexual abuse

  1. Explicit and sometimes bizarre sexual knowledge
  2. Precocious sexually related experimentation and speech
  3. Toilet training relapses
  4. Smearing of feces and /or urine
  5. Gagging and unexplained vomiting
  6. Speech problems
  7. Regressive Behavior
  8. Masturbation
  9. Withdrawal from normal human contact
  10. Stomach and head pains
  11. Bedwetting
  12. Suicidal depression
  13. Self destructive tendencies
  14. Excessive fear of selected individuals and/or locations
  15. Loss of appetite
  16. Unexplained bruises or injuries in genital areas
  17. Blood spotting or unexplained substances in underwear
  18. Abrupt or radical behavioral or attitude changes
  19. Lack of self-esteem or self-worth
  20. Ulcers, colitis, anorexia or other stress related disorders
  21. Alcohol or drug abuse
  22. Frequent nightmares
  23. Inability to sleep
  24. Excessive passivity
  25. Vaginal or urinary tract infections
  26. Infections of the mouth, gums and throat
  27. Venereal disease
  28. Unexplained gifts from adults
  29. Presence of extra money
  30. Presence of pornography
Parents, teachers, and guardians may find it difficult to distinguish between normal and healthy childhood sexual experimentation and sexual deviance resulting from exposure to pornography. The following guidelines, courtesy of Donna Rice Hughes, established by mental health and law enforcement officials, are useful in assessing sexual disturbance among children.

Sexual Preoccupation
Children who have been harmed by viewing pornography may be excessively curious about or overly preoccupied with sexuality. Some children expose their genitals to others or engage in a sudden, unusually high level of masturbation.

Age-Inappropriate Sexualized Behavior
Some children may display sexual knowledge and behavior beyond that which is appropriate for their age. According to the American Psychiatric Press, this is one of the few reliable and distinguishing characteristics that identify sexually abused children. Very young children may enact adult sexual scenarios and behaviors in their play with other children or with their dolls and stuffed animals.

Age-Inappropriate Partners
Having learned the message that sexual overtures are acceptable ways to get attention and rewards, children may enter into unhealthy relationships, particularly with older, age-inappropriate partners. Additionally, believing the myth generated by pornography that their bodies are for the use of others, young girls may become promiscuous. Children preoccupied with sex may attempt to engage younger children in sexual behavior because younger and smaller children are easier to manipulate and often more cooperative.

Aggressive attempts to undress, sexually touch, or attempt intercourse with others are not uncommon among sexually preoccupied children. When a tendency toward secretive play combines with intense sexual preoccupation, a child may be vulnerable to repeating his or her abuse with other children in ways that can create chaos and further victimization. Such a child requires extensive parental supervision and therapeutic help.

Reminder of the week: If you suspect that your child may have been the victim of child sexual abuse, try to remain calm, but seek professional help immediately. Call the Child Help National Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 and visit and Mothers Against Sexual Abuse.

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