Warning signs of sexual assault

Identifying possible signs of sexual assault

Physical signs

There are usually no physical symptoms of sexual assault in children, often physical signs would only be visible on the youngest victims. Older children may bath and dress themselves to ensure their parents don’t see any physical signs of abuse.

Infections such as yeast infections, Urinary tract infections, and or sexually transmitted disease can be present and can be an indication of sexual assault. Older children may display headaches, stomach aches, and or anxiety.

Behavioral signs

Talking about or using sexual terms that are beyond their age

Fear of being left alone with a specific person

Demand extreme privacy while changing or bathing ect.

Sexual aggression or expression towards younger or smaller children

Inappropriate sexual behavior; exposing private parts, acting out sexually on other people or with objects. May draw or play with dolls acting out sexual behavior

Acting ‘too perfect’, obedient or compliant

Bed wetting, nightmares, or having trouble sleeping at night

Acting out, constantly being in trouble at school, having difficulties concentrating at school, these behaviors may mimic ADHD

Emotional signs

Anxiety and constantly feeling afraid

Angry outbursts, violent abusive behavior towards others or animals

Avoidance, isolation, distancing themselves from others

Depression, low self esteem, cutting or other self destructive behavior

There may be no signs 

 A child may appear completely normal at school and around family but they are hiding the abuse. Most children will not tell. The shame that surrounds abuse keeps children silent along with being controlled by their abusers. Connection with children is the most effective way at knowing whats going on in their world. A child is more likely to open up to someone they feel understands them and their feelings.

Why do children not tell?

An abuser must mentally and emotionally brainwash a child in order to assault them

The child may not be old enough to understand that they are being abused. It may seem normal or loving

The abuse often may ‘feel good’ to their body and they feel ashamed by this. Too many victims do not understand that they cannot control physical response to sexual stimulation. They feel responsible for allowing it to feel good and this misconception leads them to feel guilt for ‘participating’ in the act

They feel they allowed the abuse, they feel shame and blame themselves for the abuse

They fear not being believed

They fear disappointing their parents that they have somehow ‘allowed’ the abuse to occur, that they are to blame (abusers may even tell them this.)

If it is a family member, they are often afraid of disrupting the family – if a parent or other family member were to have to leave – they wonder what would their family do.

 They feel obligated to keep it a secret to keep the family together.

The abuser may make the victim feel responsible for satisfying their sexual needs – that the child is the only one that can do this for them, that it is necessary for the abuser to relieve stress, to make them feel better, to help them through the day

They fear being hurt by the abuser, some perpetrators threaten to kill them or their families

Believe them

The most important thing you can do for a victim of childhood sexual assault is believe them. When we question the authenticity of a child’s story, it re-traumatizes the child. Once a child is believed, they begin to heal.