Protecting young people from the impact of sexual abuse often depends on identifying signs of abuse and acting quickly. This is especially true for children who experience abuse by a youth organization leader, teacher, coach, foster parent, church leader or other person in a position of power over them. What signs could indicate that a child has suffered sexual abuse?

What are the warning signs of child sexual abuse?

Many children who experience sexual abuse show subtle changes in behavior. This can include changes in behavior or school performance that cannot be linked to another cause. Children might experience nightmares, changes in appetite, stomachaches or other issues because of the stress they undergo. They may also show reluctance to attend certain activities, go to certain places or to be around a specific person.

In addition to these concerns, children who experience sexual abuse may show other signs, including:

  • Avoiding removing clothing to change clothing or bathe
  • Injuries like bleeding, swelling or bruising around their genitals
  • Difficulty or discomfort when walking or sitting
  • Showing sexual knowledge or behavior unusual for a child their age
  • Contracting a sexually transmitted disease or becomes pregnant unexpectedly

In addition to these signs, some children may subtly hint about their abuse or report it outright to a trusted adult.

If you notice signs of child sexual abuse, you may want to discuss the issue with an attorney. You can explore the legal options available to you in this case and determine the best next steps to protect this child from future abuse.