What are the Signs of Child Abuse?

Know the Signs of Abuse

The effects of sexual abuse vary between children. Children will react differently to abuse depending on their age, the extent of the abuse, or their relationship with the offender. Abusers sometimes make comments leading the child to believe that they have somehow provoked the abuse, which may affect their reaction to the abuse. Most children will not show physical injury.

Use of alcohol or drugs can be a sign of trauma or abuse

The following list is not comprehensive but gives symptoms sometimes shown by children as a result of abuse.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Behavioral (change in school performance, anger and mood changes, aggressiveness, rebellion)
  • Nausea/upset stomach
  • Crying/clinging to parents
  • Nightmares/changes in sleep patterns
  • Lying
  • Sexually inappropriate behavior
  • Fears/phobias
  • Attention seeking
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Bullying or being bullied
  • Firesetting
  • Running away
  • Self-harm

Other physical signs to be aware of include:

  • Unexplained headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Blackouts
  • Bedwetting, soiling, or other related problems
  • Loss of weight or appetite, or weight gain
  • Problems such as itching, pain, or soreness in the genital or anal areas
  • Unexplained injury of the vagina, rectal opening, penis, or genital areas
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothes
  • Sexually transmitted disease or vaginal discharge

Do you know what to do if you suspect or discover child sexual abuse?

Learn the facts about signs of abuse that will help you identify when to report.