Keeping Kids Safe: Know the Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

Keeping Kids Safe Know the Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

April is child abuse prevention month, a time to acknowledge the importance of individuals, families and communities working together to stop the exploitation of children. When it comes to child sexual abuse, keeping children safe can be challenging because the perpetrator is often someone the victim knows and trusts. That’s why it’s vitally important to learn the red flags. Your awareness, involvement, and vigilance can play a key role in stopping child sexual abuse before it ever starts.

Children and teens who are victims of sexual abuse may exhibit a broad spectrum of warning signs, ranging from the observable physical to vague changes in behavior. Be on the lookout for these warning signs in children:

Physical signs:

  • Signs of trauma to the genital area such as pain, discoloration, bleeding or discharge
  • Urinary tract infections, yeast infections, sexually transmitted diseases
  • Ongoing pain during urination and bowel movements
  • Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training

Behavioral signs:

  • Sexual behavior inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Resuming behaviors that they had grown out of, such as thumb sucking or bedwetting
  • Not wanting to be left alone with certain people or fearful when away from primary caregivers
  • Not wanting to remove clothing to change or bathe
  • Using new words for private body parts

Emotional signs:

  • Frequent talk about or knowledge of sexual topics
  • Nightmares or fear of being alone at night
  • Excessive worry or apprehension

Teens often display different CSA warning signs, such as:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Self-injury
  • Promiscuity
  • Running away
  • Mood swings, anger, anxiety and depression
  • Poor hygiene
  • Suicide attempts

It’s also important to pay attention to the adults interacting with children. Be wary of an adult who:

  • Does not have age-appropriate relationships
  • Tries to be a child’s friend rather than filling an adult role
  • Talks with children about their personal problems or relationships
  • Seeks to spend time alone with children
  • Does not respect boundaries or listen when someone tells them “no”
  • Gives a child gifts without occasion or reason

A single sign does not necessarily mean that a child is being sexually abused, but when they occur in combination or repeatedly, a closer look at the situation is warranted. It’s not always easy to identify child sexual abuse and it can be challenging to step in if you suspect something is awry. But it’s important that you do. No matter what your role is—parent, family member, neighbor, coach, or teacher - you have the power to make a positive difference. If you suspect a child is being abused, contact your local child advocacy center or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-8004ACHILD.


Join RAACE by becoming a RAACE Fan and/or subscribing to our monthly newsletter and inviting those within your child's circle of trust to join in the fight against and prevention of child sexual abuse! Visit today or call 1.800.755.KIDS.