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How Can You Recognize Signs of Child Sexual Abuse ?

Apr 18, 2016

Sexual abuse of a child occurs when a child is tricked or forced into any form of sexual activity which can range from intercourse to showing them pornography.

Child sexual abuse is often difficult to detect due to the guilt and mixed emotions involved. It is difficult to understand for the abused child, as well as for the child’s family and friends. Mixed allegiances can cause those that know the abuser to deny the serious nature of what is going on or to fear retaliation by the abuser.

The sexual abuser is most often a family member or someone the child knows. Both males and females can be sexually abused. Those that are being abused are reluctant to tell anyone about their abuse for fear of not being believed, causing splits in the family, or even losing the love of the abuser. If a child goes as far as to talk about being abused they must be taken seriously.

In most situations of child abuse, the reporting occurs when suspicions are raised by people who recognise the signs of abuse.

Warning signs to look out for that can indicate a child may be being sexually abused

  • Changes in mood or sudden changes in their behaviour. They may act out sexual activity. They become secretive, withdrawn or emotionally needy. They may develop sleeping problems including regressing back to bedwetting.
  • They may talk about a new older friend who gives them gifts.
  • They may start to self-harm.
  • They may have discomfort or bruising around the genitals or mouth that cannot be explained.
  • They may make an effort to avoid a particular adult or young person or even run away from home.
  • They change their eating habits.

If you observe a number of these signs in a child then sexual abuse should at least be considered. If you wait until you have total proof, you risk further harm to the child, or more worryingly, nothing being done at all. There are worldwide sexual abuse centers where you can email or phone to confidentially discuss your concerns with someone who will listen to you.

In the US, you can call 1.888.PREVENT (1.888.7738368) Stop It Now helpline.

The Rape Crisis Center  in Las Vegas, Nevada  702-366-1640 (24 hour hotline)

Or  1-800-656-HOPE – Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

In the UK and Ireland, you can call the Stop It Now helpline on 0808 1000 9000 or email them on

If you Google ‘sexual abuse help’ you can locate a help center in other areas.