Signs of Abuse in Children

Usually, one sign alone may not point to abuse; however, if many physical and/or behavior changes are seen, abuse is something to consider. These are just a few of the signs:


  • Changes in appetite, sleep patterns
  • Change in school performance
  • Adult sexual knowledge
  • Sexually inappropriate behaviors
  • A return to infant-like behaviors
  • Odd or unusual bathroom behaviors
  • Intense sadness/anger/aggression
  • Suicidal behavior and/or talk


  • Bloody, stained underwear
  • Pain, bleeding in private areas
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Ongoing difficulty sitting or walking
  • Repeated yeast or urinary infections

Many children are afraid to tell that they are being abused or do not know how to tell. They may drop hints or make odd statements as a way of telling. These statements or hints may sound like the following:

  • “He/She hurts me”.
  • “_______ does things to me that I don’t like.”
  • “I’m afraid to go home.”
  • “I’m afraid to go to __________ house.”
  • “I don’t like being alone with ___________.”

Why Some Children Tell and Others Don’t

Sexual abuse is overwhelming to children, especially when someone they trust is involved. Also, children are taught from a very young age not to talk back to adults, to behave the way adults want them to, and to believe whatever adults or older children tell them. In addition, children often blame themselves for the sexual abuse. For these reasons, it is very difficult for children and adolescents to tell about sexual abuse.

Other common reasons for not telling are:girl_with_wings

  • They are afraid no one will believe them
  • They are afraid they will be blamed and punished
  • They may feel very confused and do not know what to say
  • They may feel love and loyalty for the abuser
  • They may have been threatened in some way
  • An older child may be embarrassed to talk about the abuse and to use words that refer to sexual behavior and body parts

Children will usually tell about sexual abuse when:

  • They learn that sexual abuse is wrong through information and/or programs which leads them to tell a trusted adult or friend
  • They become very scared because the types of sexual behaviors they are experiencing get worse and/or the number of times it is happening is increasing
  • They may meet an adult that they trust and feel safe enough to tell

What Do I Do Now?