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Be concerned about child sexual abuse if a child

displays even some of these symptoms and/or

starts to show significantly increased levels of

the following abuse indicators.  

(This list is not all-inclusive and is drawn from multiple sources)

Psychological signs *
•   Sudden and noticeable behavioral and/or physical changes
•   Guilt or shame-based behaviors
•   Overriding depression/frequent crying
•   Nightmares/long-term sleeping difficulties/waking up screaming
•   Signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
•   Exhibiting obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) behaviors
•   Displaying anger/hostility/“acting out” behavior
•   Belief that he/she is bad, evil or sinful
•   High anxiety level
•   General fearfulness/fear of specific situations or persons
•   Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
•   Aggressive and/or risky personal behaviors (i.e. bullying others or self-mutilation)
•   Hyperconsciousness or hyper-vigilance
•   Regressive behavior patterns (returning to an earlier stage of social development)
•   Low self-esteem/social withdrawal/low self confidence
•   Feeling claustrophobic
•   Sudden desire to be perfect or control situations (i.e. “becoming a control freak”)
•   Inability to trust others
•   Sudden onset of secretiveness
•   Anger at God, oneself, or specific individuals
•   Fire starting
•   Cruelty shown to animals
•   Becoming a runaway
•   Exhibiting a general failure to thrive

Physical symptoms *
•   Physical addictions (i.e. drugs or alcohol) with accompanying addiction-related behaviors
•   Sudden onset bedwetting, constipation, or involuntary defecating
•   Difficulty using the toilet or void-related actions (i.e. must be alone to void, feces spreading)
•   Sudden onset genital pains, discomfort or unusual genital concerns or questions
•   Sudden onset rectal or vaginal bleeding
•   Clothing that is torn, bloody or stained
•   Taking excessive showers or baths (i.e. feeling “dirty”)
•   Sudden weight gain or loss of appetite/eating disorders (i.e. bulimia or anorexia nervosa)
•   Unexplained nausea or vomiting
•   Frequent headaches
•   Unexplained long-term fatigue
•   Chronic back pain
•   Auto-immune disease (i.e. fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome)

Sexually-based signs *
•   Sudden gender confusion (especially in males)
•   Sudden onset of sexualized behavior or knowledge that  is age or situationally inappropriate
•   Compulsive sexualized behavior (i.e. masturbation of oneself or of other children or adults)
•   Close intimate contact with older adolescents, teens or adults (i.e. kissing or fondling)
•   Obsessive interest in pornography
•   Sexually-based or bodily function-based fetishes and fantasies
•   Feelings of sexual inadequacy or a total lack of appropriate interest in sex (i.e. asexuality)
•   Fear of personal or sexual intimacy
•   Fear of becoming a sexual abuser of other children and/or vulnerable persons
•   Drawings or games with sexual abuse implications
•   Sexually transmitted diseases
•   Parent or guardian who is vehemently opposed to formal sex education for their child

Social situations to consider/watch *
•   Bullying by other children or adults or bullying of others by the child
•   Avoidance behaviors (i.e. avoiding particular situations or persons for no apparent reason)
•   Avoidance of gym-based situations and/or PE classes
•   Spending a lot of time with an older person (i.e. frequent  TV or internet viewing together)
•   Fast-developing close relationship with a cleric, athlete/coach, school official or any group leader
•   Decrease in school attendance, performance and/or involvement in school-related activities
•   Trying to behave uncharacteristically mature
•   Unexplained pregnancy and/or unexpectedly getting married to an older person
•   Frequent boyfriends of a female parent or guardian
•   An unusually close mother/son, father/daughter or child/leader relationship
•   Situations for a child that “just don’t feel right”



* Most children will normally display some of these signs and symptoms during their developmental years. This does not necessarily indicate abuse. What should be paid attention to is sudden onset changes and their severity, dramatic changes in the child’s personality or social functioning and behaviors that are not appropriate for given situations.

If you suspect CSA, report it to authorities (police and/or child protective services) and do what you can to protect the child. Most jurisdictions protect CSA reporters who make good faith reports even if the abuse cannot be substantiated.



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Signs of Possible Sexual Abuse

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