The signs and symptoms of child abuse are not always obvious especially in cases of child sexual abuse. Often children have been threatened or confused by their abuser not to disclose the abuse. The guidelines listed below are general signs and symptoms and if you notice these in your child you should ask them if anything has happened.
New Fears An abused child or teenager may develop new fears of situations, places, or people. They may become excessively shy, anxious, scared or withdrawn.
Anger/Hostility If a child or teen is not allowed or able to express anger towards the abuser, they may take their anger out on others or against themselves.
Inappropriate Sexual Behaviors A child may act out sexually. They may show an unusual interest in other people’s or animal’s genitals, or masturbate excessively. They may try to express affection in an inappropriate way, such as fondling private parts. Teens may participate in risky sexual behavior and make inappropriate advances in public.
Sleeping and Eating Problems A child or teen may have problems sleeping, nightmares, sudden loss or gain in appetite. Children may regress in their development. A child might return to younger, more babyish behavior such as wetting the bed or thumb sucking.
School Problems A child or teen may have difficulty concentrating which can affect school performance. A change in grades or behavior at school is not uncommon.
Loss of Boundaries A child or teen may be overly friendly and attached to total strangers, they may tolerate abuse from other children, they may become excessively isolated and withdrawn, or they may become overly obedient.
Self-Destructive Acts A child or teen may feel such guilt and shame from the abuse that they may take their feelings out by hurting themselves. This may involve hitting or cutting themselves, using drugs and/or alcohol or even a suicide attempt. As teens that were abused as children mature, it is common for issues of abuse to resurface requiring additional or new services.