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Three Signs of Sexual Abuse

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Is that possible? Can we do enough to guarantee our child is never abused? Honestly? That’s a loaded question I just asked myself. It’s hard to answer, because so many factors go into the prevention or victimization of sexual abuse. Knowing abuse is out there is a great start. The next step may not be so easy. The signs of sexual abuse are both subtle and terrifying. This step requires education, bravery, and vigilance. To not only know what abuse is, but be able to recognize it and intervene. Here are 3 signs to watch for:

1. Grooming Behaviors in Adults

Pay attention to the person that wants to give your child individual attention. Maybe they give special gifts or lavish your child with praise. I am in no way saying to be scared of every person who is kind to you or your children. However, abusers are intelligent and can be incredibly likable. They know how to gain the trust of not only the child but the child’s support system. Always check-in with your child, and listen if their inner sirens go off. This is especially important if the child displays discomfort with someone who seems by all accounts “nice”.

2. Emotional Signs

Maybe your child has been having trouble sleeping, being alone at night or even experiencing nightmares. Perhaps they “regressed” and started sucking their thumb again. Though this can happen to children who are not abused, it’s good to take note and have a conversation. See if there was an upsetting movie or YouTube video they stumbled upon and nights have seemed scarier. It could actually be nothing and your kid is just going through childhood like every other kid: day-by-day and without a guidebook. But without the conversation, you won’t know if something below the surface is triggering these changes.

3. Behavioral Signs

Bedwetting, wanting to avoid changing or taking off their clothes, or your child has all out stated that there are certain people they do not want to be left alone with. Even children who are educated on sexual abuse can have trouble verbalizing they are being groomed or abused, but they may display these behaviors. Again, it is not guaranteed that something has happened if your child wets the bed! Maybe they had a big drink of water and didn’t mean to sleep so soundly (Jeez mom/dad! It’s not a big deal! You are embarrassing me!). Even if these behaviors can be easily explained away, ask. Check-in. Let your child know you’re just making sure they are okay, and that they can always go to you if they need to.

Awareness of sexual abuse is a foundation of prevention, but it isn’t enough on its own. We have to be able to identify the signs of abuse and be willing to ask, “Is everything okay?” We need to be ready to educate our children to the best of our abilities, and be prepared for the conversations that follow. Knowing these signs will only help us if we take action and intervene when abuse presents itself.

If you are wondering, “Can I stop this? Can I prevent this? What can I do?” You’re already on the right track. With awareness, with education, and with open conversations, you are creating the best environment to lessen the chances of child sexual abuse, and empower those you hold most dear.