The first step in helping abused or neglected children is learning to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect. The presence of a single sign does not mean that child maltreatment is occurring in a family, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination.
The following signs may signal the presence of child sexual abuse.
- Has difficulty walking or sitting
- Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
- Reports nightmares or bedwetting
- Experiences a sudden change in appetite
- Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
- Becomes pregnant or contracts an STD, particularly if under 14
- Runs away
- Reports sexual abuse by a parent or other adult caregiver
- Attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment
The Parent or other adult Caregiver:
- Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
- Is secretive and isolated
- Is jealous or controlling with family members
The above list may not be all the signs of sexual abuse. It is important to pay attention to other behaviors that may seem unusual or concerning.