Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is when someone engages in sexual acts (touching or non-touching) with a child. Sexual abuse may be perpetrated by an adult, adolescent or child who forces, persuades or manipulates the victim.

Touching sexual abuse can include:

  • Touching a child in a sexual manner
  • Touching a child’s genitals
  • Making a child touch someone else’s genitals
  • Playing sexual games
  • Inserting objects or body parts inside the vulva, vagina, mouth or anus of a child

Non-touching sexual abuse can include:

  • Showing pornography to a child
  • Exposing a person’s genitals to a child
  • Prostituting/trafficking a child
  • Photographing a child in sexual poses
  • Forcing or encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts

Sexual abuse can have lasting long-term affects physically and mentally, including:

  • Unplanned pregnancies
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance abuse
  • Increased risk of suicide

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse-Many items on this list are contradictory, the most important thing to notice is a change from what is normal for the child. Always trust the child, if they aren’t comfortable, listen, even if they can’t verbalize exact reasons.

Physical warning Signs of sexual abuse:

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Signs of trauma to the genital area, such as unexplained bleeding, bruising, or blood on the sheets, underwear, or other clothing

Behavioral warning signs of sexual abuse:

  • Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics
  • Keeping secrets Not talking as much as usual
  • Not wanting to be left alone with certain people or being afraid to be away from primary caregivers, especially if this is a new behavior
  • Regressive behaviors or resuming behaviors they had grown out of, such as thumbsucking or bedwetting
  • Overly compliant behavior
  • Sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Spending an unusual amount of time alone
  • Trying to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe

Emotional warning signs of sexual abuse:

  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in mood or personality, such as increased aggression
  • Decrease in confidence or self-image
  • Excessive worry or fearfulness
  • Increase in unexplained health problems such as stomach aches and headaches
  • Loss or decrease in interest in school, activities, and friends
  • Nightmares or fear of being alone at night
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Depression symptoms

If sexual abuse is suspected, you should report it to DSS and law enforcement. For more information on reporting abuse visit our Recognize, Respond, Report page.