signs of sexual abuse in children

Identifying Signs of Abuse in Children

How do I know if my child is being abused? It’s a question caring parents frequently ask in an attempt to protect and care for their children. Sadly, there’s no obvious way to know unless you happen to witness the abuse. Perpetrators of abuse are often very skilled at hiding signs of abuse and manipulating victims into silence.

34% of abuse is perpetrated by a family member. 22% of abuse occurs to children under age 8. Most children won’t be able to explain what is happening to them, or are afraid of consequences if the abuser is a teacher, leader, or relative. Some abusers will also threaten a child in an attempt to keep them quiet.

Did you know bed-wetting can be a sign of abuse? As can thumb sucking, extreme nervousness, acting out sexually, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. Some signs of abuse are discounted as typical issues of childhood, reducing the likelihood of stopping further abuse.

You can stay alert to signs of sexual abuse in your child by identifying any changes in behavior, including nightmares, eating disorders, and mood swings. Here’s a list of signs of abuse from the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC).

signs of sexual abuse in children

In children less than 8 years of age:

  • Eating disorders
  • Fear of sleeping alone
  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Separation anxiety
  • Thumb-sucking
  • Bed-wetting or accidents
  • Sexual acting out, posturing
  • Change in school behavior (fear of school, drop in grades, trouble concentrating)
  • Excessive fear (including of men or women)
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Extreme nervousness

In children older than 8:

  • Fear of being alone
  • Peer problems
  • Frequent fights with family members
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Excessive nervousness
  • Memory problems
  • Suicidal thoughts or gestures
  • Self-mutilation
  • Hyperalertness
  • Sexual acting out
  • Substance abuse
  • Unwillingness to change into gym clothes

For a full list of signs of abuse in children, visit the NYSPCC website. If you know or, or suspect, abuse, please immediately call your county’s Child Protective Services hotline. You can find a complete listing of each number on the Child Protective Services website. You may be the only adult in a child’s life to see the abuse, and who could potentially help stop the abuse.

If you, or someone you love, have been abused, please contact our office today at 888.212.0440 or through the form below for a free case review.