Informational Article: Signs of Sexual Abuse

Signs in Children:

  • Anger and aggressiveness
  • Any extreme changes of behaviour or moods
  • An unhealthy attachment to a single person
  • Anxiety and hypervigilance
  • Avoiding changing in front of people, dressing out for gym class, swimming or other activities where more than normal skin is exposed
  • Being overly compliant with requests, directions and physical contact. Or a “fawn” response
  • Bleeding in the genitals or rectum. Other signs of damage, infections, or other injuries in genitals
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Depression symptoms. Lethargy, sadness, hopelessness, or numbed out mood.
  • Developmental regression (Ex: bed wetting or language regression)
  • Displaying inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Disrupted/disordered eating patterns
  • Fear of specific places, people or events (Ie a holiday)
  • Fear of any physical contact, especially with specific body parts
  • Flashbacks and Panic attacks
  • Hyperactivity (often mistaken for ADHD)
  • Inappropriate interest in sexual material
  • Inattentiveness, trouble in school often seen as a learning disability
  • Maladaptive daydreaming, spacing out, “spells” or dissociative behaviours
  • Medical issues with no known cause (headaches & nausea common)
  • Pain when walking, sitting and/or using the bathroom
  • Resistance to following directions and leaders. Sometimes diagnosed as ODD or similar disorders, though generally, this stems from mistrust
  • Searching compulsively for approval
  • Self-injurious behaviour like headbanging. In young kids may not look like typical self-harm
  • Severe nightmares
  • Social withdrawal/isolation. Dropping out of clubs or sports they once enjoyed
  • Wearing clothes that are not seasonally appropriate. Like many layers when it’s warm outside

Signs in Teens:

  • Acting out that seems random, including petty theft or getting into fights
  • Addiction to alcohol, drugs or pornography
  • Avoiding school or Home
  • (C-)PTSD symptoms
  • Drop in school performance
  • Eating disorders
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Low self esteem
  • Mood Swings
  • Outbursts of rage
  • Risky sexual behaviour
  • Running away
  • Self-harm. (Cutting, burning or skin picking)
  • Suicidal ideation or suicide attempts
  • Telling stories about a “friend” or “somebody i know” having experienced sexual violence

Signs in Adults:

  • Addiction
  • Anger that won’t leave with periodic outbursts 
  • Anxiety disorder symptoms
  • Asthma and other respiratory ailments
  • Avoidance of intimacy or compulsive need for emotional intimacy 
  • Chronic pain (Musculoskeletal skeletal, headaches & pelvic)
  • Concentration issues 
  • Exaggerated fight/flight/freeze/fawn responses
  • Extreme emotional reactions that feel as if they are responding to something you can’t place
  • Depression 
  • Difficulties with trusting others
  • Disordered Eating & Eating Disorders
  • Dissociation, depersonalization and derealization 
  • Feeling as if your an adult but still a child at the same time 
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms/distress
  • Habitual engagements in dangerous sexual behaviour
  • Hypervigilance 
  • Hypersexuality and/or Sex repulsion 
  • Insomnia and other sleep issues 
  • Poor self-esteem and unstable self-identity 
  • C-PTSD/PTSD symptoms (explanation of PTSD here)
  • Self-harm 
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Somatization and somatic flashbacks 
  • Suicidal ideation or suicide attempts
  • Volatile interpersonal relationships

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