Child Sexual Abuse - Signs And Symptoms

Sexual abuse has affected millions of children throughout the world. Child sexual abuse is defined as: An adult using a child for sexual purposes. This can be in the form of child pornography, submitting children to look at pornography, fondling, touching, kissing, sodomy, exposing oneself to a child, rape, oral sex, intercourse, or having the child touch the adult. All children will react differently to this type of trauma. There is no one single identifiable sign or symptom that all children will have. They may have very subtle symptoms or they may have very pronounced symptoms. I have gathered a list of symptoms that children of sexual abuse are often seen to have.

Bedwetting (after being potty trained)

Waking up in the night screaming, nightmares or other sleeping problems

Showing an unusual fear of certain people, places or things

A reluctance to be with a certain person

Loss of appetite or trouble eating

Fear of the bathroom

Excessive crying

Mood changes, anger outbursts or withdrawal or fear

Becomes worried when clothing is removed

Wearing layers of clothing

Age inappropriate knowledge of sex

Imitating sexual acts with other children or toys, such as dolls

Withdrawing from activities they used to be involved in

Difficulty walking or sitting

Complains of pain with urination or bowel movement

Bleeding from the genital area or anus

Academic problems

Lowered self esteem

Symptoms of PTSD such as panic attacks

Somatic complaints

Regression of behavior

Having new words for private body parts

Excessive masturbation

These are all symptoms of child sexual abuse. One common feeling I have found in working with children and adolescents, is guilt. Children usually feel guilt over the abuse that occurred. It is important to remember that under no circumstance is a child ever responsible for what happened to them. It is crucial that “re- victimization” does not happen. Some ways a child can be re- victimized is by saying to the child:

“Uncle Joey, or Grandpa Bob would never do that to you, why are you lying?”

“It couldn’t of been that bad, or you would have told me sooner”

Child sexual abuse victims usually carry this trauma with them for the rest of their lives. Some children as they begin to get older will start using drugs, get into relationships with others who are abusive, see themselves as “damaged goods” and begin acting out sexually. Engage is self mutilation, such as cutting behaviors. Some children gain weight or don’t take care of themselves so they look “unattractive” to others.

There is hope. Finding the proper treatment for past trauma can be influential on how they cope with this as an adult. Rape crisis centers are usually available in most states. There is also a national rape crisis center. They are a full service agency that addresses prevention, education, crisis intervention, counseling and advocacy. They work with both children and adults. There is also a 24 hour hotline available at the national rape crisis center, for parents or victims of sexual abuse.

About the Author
Wendy McLellan is a licensed mental health and substance abuse counselor, with more than sixteen years of experience. She has recently devoted time to the efforts of in their goal to provide parental internet safety tools and resources to the public.

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