Physician: Recognizing the Signs of Sexual Abuse.

Eight symptoms to watch for.

Crystal Perkins March 01, 2014
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What are some of the signs and behavioral presentations exhibited by a sexually abused child?

  1. Many times the sexually abused child is old enough to verbally make direct statements about the abuse and his or her perpetrator.
  2. Inappropriate sexual behavior or play in an immature child.
  3. Sexual abuse of other victims.
  4. Chronic medical conditions:
    • Recurrent abdominal pain without medical diagnosis
    • Bedwetting or soiling
    • Genital or anal trauma
    • Sexually transmitted disease
    • Pregnancy
    • Genital bleeding or discharge
  5. Emotional and behavioral manifestations:
    • Sleep disturbances (recurrent nightmares)
    • Depression and social withdrawal
    • Aggression, temper tantrums, impulsiveness
    • Guilt and low self esteem
    • Feelings of helplessness
    • Hysterical reactions
    • Excessive masturbation
    • Suicidal threats
    • Runaway behavior
  6. Fear of intimacy and sexual dysfunction
  7. School problems and truancy
  8. Substance abuse

Many of these characteristics can be exhibited at different times in a child’s life from early childhood to later adolescence. Usually, sexual abuse is not a one-time event. It is generally a chronic and ongoing problem. Abused children often find themselves helpless in the situation.

Unless the child is taken out of the environment, the abuse will continue. Sexual abuse of any child or adolescent is a vile thought, but it does occur. Professionals and everyday people need be on heightened alert to such cases, and when they are suspected, an immediate report to the authorities is mandated. In some internationally adopted cases, the sexual abuse did not occur in the new environment, but it occurred in the old orphanage. Institutions are magnets for child sexual predators. Abuse can be at the hands of the caregiver or at the hands of some of the older children within the orphanage. Sometimes adoptive parents are left to deal with the scars of sexual abuse created in the orphanage.

The information and advice provided is intended to be general information, NOT advice on how to deal with a particular child’s problem. If your child has a specific problem, you need to ask your pediatrician about it. Only after a careful history and physical exam can a medical diagnosis and treatment plan be made. This website does not constitute a physician-patient relationship.

To find a child advocacy center that can help your child overcome any abuse he or she has experienced, please refer to the map below:

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Crystal Perkins

Crystal is the content manager for Adoption.com. In her free time, she enjoys honing her outdoor photography skills, going on hikes, and hanging out with her husband.


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