Sexual abuse victims may show certain signs that parents, caregivers and friends should know to protect victims from further abuse. Each person is different and can show different signs indicating victimization. Recognizing possible signs of abuse can help you to assist the victim in getting help and stopping the abuse as soon as possible.
The American Psychological Association outlines behaviors common in children who have been abused:
- An increase in nightmares and/or other sleeping difficulties
- Angry outbursts
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Withdrawn behavior
- Pregnancy or contraction of a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
- Propensity to run away
- Refusal to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
- Regressive behaviors depending on their age (e.g., return to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting)
- Reluctance to be left alone with a particular person or people
- Sexual knowledge, language, and/or behaviors that are unusual and inappropriate for their age
Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving a child with someone, don’t do it. If you’re concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.