Childhood sexual abuse is a serious problem that affects millions of children around the globe. The long-term effects of child sexual abuse include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide attempts, self-harm, and other mental health problems.
Child sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual contact between an adult and a child under the age of 18 years. This includes sex, fondling, touching the child’s private parts without their consent, kissing, taking inappropriate videos or photos of the child, or sharing obscene images with them.
Spotting child sexual abuse is not always easy because perpetrators try to hide their actions. However, here are six warning signs of child sexual abuse that can help you protect a child who is in danger.
1. Physical Signs
A victim of child sexual abuse will show signs like trauma around the genital area, like bruising, blood on their underwear or clothes, and unexplained bleeding.
2. STIs or Pregnancy
The child may get infected with an STI. The child becomes sick, and upon visiting a healthcare facility, you find out the child was sexually abused and contracted the STI then.
Another sign of child sexual abuse in pregnancy. Pregnancy is noticeable after a few months, but some caregivers quickly notice pregnancy signs. If a caretaker or parent sees these signs, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention.
3. Negative Behaviors
A victim of child sexual abuse will have a noticeable behavior change. Here are some signs to look for:
- Being afraid to be left with some people. If the child was initially comfortable around that person, this behavior from the child is a red flag. So, try talking to the child to understand their behavior.
- Staying alone-if, your child was initially social and lively but now spends long periods alone, something is disturbing them.
- Sexual behavior that is unexpected for a child’s age
4. Change in Personality
- Being overly quiet, especially if the child is usually talkative-they begin to keep secrets.
- Excessive talk or knowledge about sexual topics. Although children are taught sex issues in school, there is a level of knowledge that will show you they have been exposed to sexual activity. They could have been sexually abused or exposed to pornography. When you notice this sign, try talking to the child to find out how they got all that knowledge.
5. Regressive behavior
- If your child goes back to behaviors that they had stopped, like bedwetting or thumb-sucking, they may be going through trauma. Reach out to them to find out what is happening.
- Refusing to bathe- If the child refuses to remove their clothes and doesn’t want to bathe in the guardian’s presence, they may be hiding something.
6. Emotional Behavior
- Noticeable changes in the child’s eating habits like overeating or loss of appetite.
- Lack of interest in school or social activities
- Self-harming behavior
- Excess worry and fear
- Mood changes like increased anger outbursts or aggression
- Low self-esteem-If the child suffers from decreased confidence or self-image. Something is wrong. This is especially if the child was initially confident about themselves and their image.
If you notice such signs, your child could be experiencing child sexual abuse. Please don’t ignore these signs. Instead, talk to them, and seek medical attention.