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Signs of Child Abuse

Learn the signs of child abuse and protect children by reporting abuse when suspected.

Click here to read more about Myths Surrounding Child Sexual Abuse.

BEHAVIORAL AND PHYSICAL SIGNS OF POSSIBLE SEXUAL ABUSE

Symptoms of anxiety
These include unexplained sleep disturbances (sweats, terrors, nightmares); showing a new or unusual fear of certain people, places or locations; having unexplained periods of panic or alarm.

Abnormal sexual behaviors or symptoms
These behaviors and symptoms include excessive masturbation; leaving ‘clues’ that appear to intentionally invite discussion of sexual issues; complaining of pain while using the toilet, or exhibiting symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease such as an offensive odor; resistance to removal of clothing at appropriate times (bath, bed, toilet, diaper change); any symptom indicating evidence of physical traumas to the genital or anal area; engaging in persistent sexual play with friends, toys or pets; initiating sophisticated sexual behaviors, language, or knowledge; asking an unusual amount of questions about human sexuality.

Changes in personality or mood:
Changes include unusually aggressive behavior toward family members, friends, toys, and pets; indicating a sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person; withdrawing from previously enjoyable activities, like school including changes in academic performance.

General behavioral changes
These can include beginning to wet the bed, experiencing a loss of appetite or other changes in eating habits, including trouble swallowing; developing frequent unexplained health problems; regression to behaviors too young for the stage of development previously achieved; engaging in self-mutilations, such as sticking themselves with pins or cutting themselves.

Changes in beliefs or discussions
These changes can include refusal to talk about a secret shared with an adult or an older child; discussions about a new, older friend; suddenly thinks of self or body as dirty, repulsive, or bad.

Physical signs of sexual abuse are rare. If you see the signs, bring your child to a doctor,  call Childline at 1-800-932-0313, or call your local law enforcement.