Behavioral Warning Signs

Certain child behaviors are clear indicators that sexual abuse has occurred because non-abused children generally do not act in these ways. These include:

  • The child placing his or her mouth on a part of the sexual anatomy such as penis
  • The child asking an adult or others to take part in a sexual activity
  • Masturbating with an object
  • Imitating movements involved in sexual activity
  • Making sexual sounds
  • French kissing
  • Playing with dolls in sexually imitative ways

Other behaviors are indicators that sexual abuse may have occurred. These include:

  • Nightmares or night terrors (waking up screaming and sweating)
  • Bedwetting
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Use of adult sexual language
  • Self-mutilation such as cutting
  • Changes in eating habits such as loss of appetite or overeating and eating disorders
  • Aggression towards other children or angry acting out towards adults
  • Victimizing other children 
  • Changes in school performance  
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Decline in social activities - not wanting to play and be with friends
  • Inability to concentrate and focus
  • Anger or disgust when views affection or sexuality
  • Inability to remember time periods in life
  • Inability to receive affection, pushing away hugs 
  • Addictions such as alcohol, drugs, food, or masturbation
  • Compulsive behaviors, particularly showering, washing hands
  • Hallucinations
  • Verbal, physical, sexual abuse of other children
  • Running away
  • Early marriage


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