Sexual Abuse Warning Signs

How To Identify Sexual Abuse Warning Signs

Attorney Robert Allard: Pedophiles are very normal members of our society. They are fathers, their husbands. They are successful. We cannot identify pedophiles, by the way they look. We can only do that by the way they behave. And there is a clear pattern of behavioral characteristics that almost every pedophile engages in before he or she decides to molest. And those warning signs include isolating your child, spending time with your child outside of sanctioned events, keeping the child in after school, or if the child plays sports, keeping the child after the sporting event is over to give them extra coaching.

Vigilance is the key to seeing child molestation warning signs and determining whether your child is a sexual abuse victim. There are sexual abuse warning signs and indicators to be watchful for. Most noteworthy, drastic changes in your child's behavior may herald the occurrence of abuse. For more information, please read this article if your child has been sexually abused.

child molestation warning signs

Before discussing these, it is important that parents understand what childhood sexual abuse is and what it entails. Childhood sexual abuse includes both physical contact and non-physical behaviors.

As far as touching is concerned, a predator may derive sexual pleasure from touching a child's genitalia or private parts; forcing the child to touch their own or another person's genitals; playing sexually-charged games with the child; or inserting body parts (penis, fingers, tongue) inside the anus, mouth, or vagina of a child. Sexual abuse which does not include physical contact might include encouraging a child to listen to or view a sex act being performed; photographing a child nude, semi-nude, or while posed sexually; exposing one's genitalia to a child (exhibitionism); showing a child pornographic materials; or watching a child relieve itself or change clothes (voyeurism).

In a general sense, children are emotionally pure beings who wear their hearts on their sleeves. Because they may not be verbally forthcoming about what's bothering them, their behavior is often a dead giveaway of how they're feeling inside. As a result, if you notice one or two of the following signs in your child, there may not be cause for alarm; but if a child exhibits many of these following indicators, it may be a sign that someone in their life is sexually abusing them.

Behavioral Child Molestation Warning Signs Of Sexual Abuse In A Child Include:
  • Using toys or inanimate objects in sexually inappropriate ways
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Emotional neediness
  • Withdrawn, reticent behavior
  • Secretiveness
  • Abrupt and drastic shifts in personality
  • Mood swings
  • Unexplained insecurities
  • Regressing to a younger age mentally or physically (i.e., thumb-sucking or bedwetting)
  • Irrational fear of specific people or places
  • Unexplained bursts of irritation
  • Eating disorders
  • Sudden knowledge of proper names or slang terms for body parts
  • Speaking about a new older friend
  • Gifts or money from mysterious sources
  • Cutting, burning, or other acts of self-harm
  • Bruises or redness around the mouth or genitals, soreness of the genitalia, pregnancy, or STDs
  • Running away from home

It's important to remember that sexual abuse is not the only explanation for these behaviors. If there is another source of emotional stress in the child's life, such as their parents' divorce, the loss of a pet or family member, bullying at school, fighting with friends, or other anxiety-inducing phenomena, this could also explain the negative behavior.

Physical Child Sexual Abuse Warning Signs

Molesters and predators often take precautions to hide the physical signs of their abuse, and it's rare for a parent or guardian to detect them. If you happen to observe the following physical signs in your child, you should take them to a doctor immediately. A qualified physician will examine the child and inform you of the probable cause of the child's condition. Doctors may also conduct tests for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

Physical signs of childhood sexual abuse may include:

  • Discharges, pains, redness or discoloration, and/or bleeding about the mouth, genitalia, or anus of the child
  • Repetitive or chronic pain whenever the child defecates or urinates
  • Pants-soiling or bedwetting which occurs independently of toilet training
Signs That An Adult May Be Abusing Your Child

It's just as vital to observe the behavior of adults close to your child as it is to observe your child's behavior. Studies have shown that adults who abuse children often know the children and are close to them: relatives, family friends, teachers, coaches, counselors, or pastors. You should not assume that your child is "safe" in the care of another adult just because that adult projects a trustworthy air and holds an esteemed position within the community.

It's not always blatantly obvious that an adult may be targeting or abusing a child for sexual pleasure. More commonly, there are small, subtle signs or indicators which build up over time. An adult may be excessively touchy-feely when playing with the child, show the child greater favor than any other, or fabricate excuses for the child and the adult to spend some alone-time together.

Consequently, you should be concerned about an adult or an adolescent's behavior if they display more than one or two of the following tendencies:

  • Denying the child privacy while changing clothes or using the bathroom
  • Interfering in the child's personal business or private decisions
  • Ignoring the child's wishes when it comes to physical affection such as wrestling, hugging, or kissing
  • Exhibiting undisguised interest in a child or teenager's sexual development or habits
  • Seeking to be alone with the child for lengthy, uninterrupted periods of time
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time with children and ignoring people of their own age
  • Offering to babysit children at their own place of residence, or take children on unsupervised overnight trips
  • Giving children money or gifts for no clear reason
  • Telling a child that he or she is "special"
Predator Grooming

Be aware of the adults in your child's life and their attitudes and habits toward your child. First, if an adult or adolescent is exhibiting an inordinate number of the above indicators, they may be grooming your child for sexual predation. Furthermore, predators take pains to isolate children from the influence of their friends, peers, parents, or guardians. They do this by slowly gaining the child's trust, giving them compliments, assuaging their fears and insecurities, and/or giving them gifts or money as bribes. As a result, the child's inhibitions are broken down, and the predator moves in to take advantage. This is referred to as predatory grooming.

What To Do If You See Sexual Abuse Warning Signs

If you suspect that your child has been sexually abused, learn about your rights and options. Call the law firm of Cerri, Boskovich & Allard at (408) 289-1417 for a free and confidential consultation. We've successfully represented dozens of victims of sexual abuse across California and the United States. We have the financial resources necessary to win a case and get you fair compensation in civil court. Allow our strength and experience to support you in this difficult time.

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