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:
- Physical Warning Signs - physical indicators may offer conclusive evidence of sexual abuse.
- Behavioral Warning Signs - certain behaviors are foreign to the normal developmental pattern of a child and indicate strong probability of sexual abuse.
- 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.