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Know the signs: Sexual Abuse

Signs young children 0-3 years of age may exhibit

Physical signs

  • Bleeding, cuts or unexplained burning, bruises, rash or swelling in genital area
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections
  • Painful urination or bowel movement
  • Sore throats or trouble swallowing
  • Has difficulty walking or sitting
  • Feeding and bowel problems

Behavioral signs

  • Excessive crying
  • Fear
  • Failure to thrive
  • Sleeping problems including nightmares
  • Exhibits violent behavior towards siblings and other children (biting, hitting, kicking)
  • Regressive behavior such as thumb-sucking or bedwetting

Signs young children 2-9 years of age may exhibit

Physical signs

  • Bleeding, cuts or unexplained burning, bruises, rash or swelling in genital area
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections
  • Painful urination or bowel movement
  • Sore throats or trouble swallowing
  • Has difficulty walking or sitting
  • Feeding and bowel problems
  • Involuntary urination or bowel movement

Behavioral signs

  • Exhibits adult-like sexual knowledge, behavior or language
  • Engages in inappropriate sex play (for example act out sexual behavior on stuffed animals or other toys)
  • Feeling shameful or guilty
  • Excessive or public masturbation
  • Reenacts sexual abuse or tries to initiate behavior with siblings or other children
  • Shows great worry for siblings or assumes caretaking role
  • Exhibits violent behavior towards siblings and other children (biting, hitting, kicking)
  • Trouble making friends
  • Writes, draws, plays, or dreams of sexual or frightening images
  • Regressive behavior such as thumb-sucking or bedwetting
  • Feels threatened by physical contact
  • Has nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Develops phobias
  • Cruelty to animals

Signs young children 9 years and older may exhibit

Physical signs

  • Bleeding, cuts or unexplained burning, bruises, rash or swelling in genital area
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections
  • Painful urination or bowel movement
  • Sore throats or trouble swallowing
  • Has difficulty walking or sitting
  • Feeding and bowel problems
  • Self-harm
  • Gain or lose a large amount of weight
  • Become pregnant or contract a venereal disease(s)

Behavioral signs

  • Depression or withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts or gestures
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Sudden changes in school performance (plummeting grades, skipping school)
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Promiscuous activities
  • Run away from home
  • Secretive or isolated
  • Trouble making friends
  • Exhibits adult-like sexual knowledge, behavior or language
  • Feeling shameful or guilty
  • Excessive or public masturbation
  • Reenacts sexual abuse or tries to initiate behavior with siblings or other children
  • Shows great worry for siblings or assumes caretaking role
  • Extreme mood swings (crying, violence, fear, withdrawal, depression)
  • Writes, draws, plays, or dreams of sexual or frightening images
  • Regressive or clingy behavior
  • Feels threatened by physical contact
  • Develops phobias
  • Fear of situations outside of their control
  • Engage in fire-starting activities
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Complaints of physical ailments such as headaches, stomachaches or pain


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