Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

Warning signs can alert you to possible sexual abuse or confirm a previous suspicion. Child victims react differently following sexual abuse, and no single indicator is proof that it has occurred. Warning signs can be divided into three categories:

  1. Physical Warning Signs - physical indicators may offer conclusive evidence of sexual abuse.
  2. Behavioral Warning Signs - certain behaviors are foreign to the normal developmental pattern of a child and indicate strong probability of sexual abuse.
  3. Emotional Warning Signs - emotional signs are not as conclusive but contribute to confirmation of sexual abuse.

If you notice one or several warning signs, depending on their severity:

  • Go to the Emergency Room.
  • Call your child's physician for an immediate appointment.
  • Call a counselor to discuss your observations and concerns.
  • Call the Hot Line. You can make an anonymous call and ask questions without making a formal report.
  • Call the local social services or DHS/Child Welfare agency in your community.   

Guidelines to help you know what to do:

  • The more severe the warning sign, the more likely that abuse has occurred.
  • Non-disclosure by the child does not prove abuse did not occur. Most children do not tell. 
  • If a cluster of warning signs is present, the child is obviously experiencing severe distress, and abuse has most likely occurred. 
  • When the behavior of a child suddenly changes without explanation, sexual abuse is a possibility.
  • When physical symptoms do not respond to medical treatment, and the child focuses on bodily complaints, sexual abuse is a possible explanation.

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