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How to Spot Signs of Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of children in the United States has arguably reached epidemic proportions. More and more, stories are flooding the news waves regarding individuals and institutions sexually abusing children or covering up the abuse. This includes major organizations such as the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, USA Gymnastics, schools, and more.

Statistics show that approximately 10% of children will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. An unfortunate reality is that approximately 90% of sexually abused children know the perpetrator of their abuse. The abusers can be friends, neighbors, teachers, and even family members. Parents and guardians need to be able to recognize the signs of sexual abuse in children. This is not always an easy task because the signs are not always physical. They can also be behavioral, emotional, and technological. If your child has sexually abused, contact the Anaheim sexual abuse lawyers at Bentley & More, LLP.

Signs that a child may have been sexually abused

Physical sexual abuse warning signs

Sometimes, physical signs of sexual abuse are visible, but that may not always be the case.

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs, STDs)
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Unexplained bruising on the arms or legs
  • Soreness of other signs of trauma to the genital area (unexplained bleeding or bruising, blood on sheets, etc.)

Emotional sexual abuse warning signs

Emotional warning signs of sexual abuse can be more difficult to spot, but they can certainly indicate that something is wrong.

  • Talking about sexual topics or having knowledge of sexual topics
  • Unexplained worrying or fear
  • Nightmares, night terrors, or refusing to sleep alone

Behavioral sexual abuse warning signs

Parents and guardians often recognize when something is not right, and the following behavioral warning signs can indicate sexual abuse.

  • Reverting to outgrown behaviors such as the wedding or thumb sucking
  • Sexual behaviors that are inappropriate for a child’s age
  • Avoiding removing clothing to bathe, sleep, or change
  • Suddenly closing or locking a bedroom door
  • Not wanting to be alone with certain people or showing fear of other people

Technological sexual abuse warning signs

Much of the sexual abuse a child encounters will also accompany electronic encounters with another person. As our children become more technologically connected, predators use new ways to stay in contact with and abused children. Parents and guardians should look out for the following signs and symptoms of electronic sexual abuse.

  • A child suddenly password protecting their phone
  • Regular clearing of browser history
  • Sexual photographs or videos on their electronic devices
  • Chat apps or other applications on a phone that are not recognized or outside of parental controls (WhatsApp, Discord, Signal, Viber, Kik, etc.)

Talk to your children

The best way to prevent child sexual abuse is to be upfront and honest with your child. Using age appropriate language, let your children know that there are people in the world who may not have their best interests at heart. Let your child know that there are off-limits areas on their body that nobody should be touching. Most importantly, create an atmosphere of openness and honesty. If your child feels like they can talk to you, they will be much more likely to tell you when something is wrong. A child should never feel like they are the ones to blame if someone tries to sexually abuse them. Always believe your child when they tell you something has happened to them.

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