Here are some of the signs you have to watch out for in the child to identify sexual abuse:
A. Behavioral indicators
A body of research has gone into discovering that child sexual abuse may indeed bring about certain behavioural changes in the said child.
This could include kissing inappropriately (thrusting their tongue into the mouth of the person they are kissing), repeatedly masturbating or touching their privates, inappropriate (for the age, especially for children below 10) curiosity around sexuality, trying sexualized activities with other children, fondling themselves, drawing sexual images etc.
2. Regressive behaviours like thumb-sucking and bed-wetting
Other anxious responses include thumb-sucking and bed-wetting. Again excess anxiety and pent-up fear is considered to be the real reasons behind this. Behaviours such as thumb-sucking can in fact provide some self-soothing relief to the victim.
Some victims of child sexual abuse may become so fearful that they may appear to be always clingy and wanting to be held and accompanied. The real reason could be an heightened fear of the perpetrator and a need to stay away from them as much as possible.
B. Psychological indicators:
1. Irritable mood
Some children show frequent changes in mood, mostly reacting violently to very trivial triggers. the child may even start using abusive words which he/she never used in the past.
Aggressive behaviour, which may stem from anger towards the perpetrator and a family or caregivers who couldn’t protect the victim, could also arise. This mood swings is the outcome of the underlying fear and anxiety effectuated by the abuse.
2. Fear of a particular place or person
A child who is undergoing abuse often has fear associated to a particular place, location or person. He/she might have unexplained periods of panic instigated by certain places or persons. It is very crucial to notice this specific sign because it helps in speedy identification of the perpetrator. The child may be scared of going to school, tuition or near a certain person who might be abusing the child.
3. Depression and poor self-esteem
The inability to work towards disclosure and alongside, living with repetitive abuse can push children towards depression and lack of self-esteem.
The child can socially withdraw, lacking vigor and general enthusiasm in life and fail to keep up with academics.
4. Repeated nightmares
Children who are sexually abused may be traumatized by frequent nightmares that lead to broken sleep and extreme physical tiredness.
5. Changes in beliefs
A child might suddenly refuse to share a secret shared with a specific older member of the family or someone known to the child or frequent mention of a stranger who became familiar to the child. The child might start to believe that his/her body is dirty,bad or repulsive.
C. Physical indicators
Physical changes also often occur in victims of child sexual abuse and they may include some of the following –
1. Recurrent vaginal infections
Vulvovaginitis has been seen to occur among child sexual abuse victims. Any repetitive complaints of vaginal distress could have roots in sexual abuse.
2.Unexplained anal or vaginal injuries
Anal injuries usually are less common in child sexual abuse, compared to vaginal injuries. In any case, suspicion should ideally lead to a thorough investigation.
3. Pain while urinating
Along with frequent urination, pain or itchiness in vaginal area might be present in some cases of child sexual abuse. The cause could be an underlying infection, which can be ascertained only through a thorough check-up.
4. Aberations and lacerations
Major signs of trauma are usually not present in most cases. But there can be lacerations present near the vaginal area.
5. Presence of seminal fluid
This is often a clear physical indicator and must be taken seriously
D. Biological indicators:
1. Sleep disturbances
For some children who have been sexually exploited, sleep disturbances are very common. The children might face difficulty falling asleep and as a result may appear to be fatigued and drained of energy.
2. Changes in eating habits
Anxiety caused by abuse can lead to notable changes in the eating habits of the child. Some children will eat more often to gain weight while others will shun away from eating. They may start having gastrointestinal and related problems like stomach ache, bloating, indigestion etc. Feelings of nausea and aversion to foods they initially liked is common.