While no parent wants to think that their child may have been the victim of sexual abuse, this occurrence is unfortunately common. Often, when children fall victim to sexual abuse, they are hesitant to report this occurrence out of fear or reprisal or feelings of shame. Because children often fail to report incidents of sexual abuse, parents and other caregivers must be responsible for noticing signs of sexual abuse.
Increased Sleep Disturbance
The American Academy of Child & Pediatric Psychiatry reports that many victims of sexual abuse suffer from sleep disturbance following the abuse. This disturbance may be a result of increased nightmares or a general uneasiness on the part of the child who is worried about a repeat of the sexual assault.
Many children respond to sexual abuse by withdrawing from friends and family members, reports the American Academy of Child & Pediatric Psychiatry. The reason for this withdrawal is unknown, but some who have conducted studies in the field hypothesize that it is the result of the child’s internal struggle or feelings of worthlessness as a result of the abuse.
Showing Excessive Locational Fear
If your child is suddenly fearful of an every day location that he once visited willingly, it may be a sign that he was a victim of sexual abuse in or around that location. While locational fear can be a sign of sexual abuse, it can also be the result of some other negative occurrence at this sight. To ensure that your child’s fear is not due to an incident wholly unrelated to sexual abuse, ask your child probing questions regarding his fear of the location. When asking these questions, do not mention sexual abuse, but instead leave the mentioning of this topic up to the child.
Engaging in Sexual Play
As ProtectKids reports, children who are victims of sexual abuse commonly engage in sexual play. If, while monitoring your child’s play, you notice that your child is acting out sex-related scenes or paying special attention to the locations of sexual organs on his dolls, this may be a sign that your child has had experience with sex in the form of sexual abuse.
Infliction of Bodily Harm
Many sexual abuse victims allow their emotional turmoil to manifest itself physically in the form of self-inflicted harm. If your child engages in cutting behavior or does other things that harm herself, it may be a sign that she is struggling emotionally, perhaps as the result of a sexual assault.