Warning Signs of Sexually Abused Children in Pennsylvania-min

It is no longer acceptable for child sexual abuse cases to be swept under the carpet. Many instances have been exposed in recent years involving some of our most trusted institutions.

Continue the good work of holding sexual abusers accountable for their actions and obtaining justice for victims involves continued education about what abuse is, what the warning signs are, and what needs to happen if you suspect it.

By understanding the warning signs of sexually abused children and also what to look for in the behavior of their abusers, we can help prevent suffering for more children.

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What constitutes child sexual abuse?

Warning signs of sexually abused children in PennsylvaniaJust before we get into the warning signs, it’s important to be clear on what sexual abuse of a child is.

Most people understand that the rape or sexual assault of a minor is a serious crime – just as it is with adults – but other behaviors are inappropriate with a child and can lead to criminal charges.

“Sexual abuse” is quite a broad term that includes sexual contact with a child, but goes beyond that. Legally, no child can consent to any form of sexual behavior from an adult towards them, so there are many other forms of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

The following types of behaviors all constitute sexual abuse and can have a serious impact upon a child’s physical, emotional and mental development:

  • Sexually explicit conduct, such as looking at the sexual/intimate parts of others
  • Sexually explicit conversation for sexual stimulation or gratification
  • Actual or simulated sexual activity or nudity
  • Actual or simulated sexual activity for photographing or videoing
  • Indecent assault
  • Indecent exposure
  • Prostitution
  • Unlawful contact with a minor

Warning signs that a child may have been sexually abused

Because of the gradual grooming measures used by perpetrators of child sexual abuse, identifying the many warning signs can be a challenge.

Abusers often work slowly, taking steps to build trust with the victim and “normalizing” close contact together. They may also use intimidation tactics once they have gained control of a child.

Understanding how abusers operate also helps us understand the warning signs of abuse to look out for in children. We need to be aware not only of the physical signs of abuse (which may be most obvious) but also the emotional and behavioral signs.

This is further complicated by the fact that many of the emotional and behavioral signs of abuse are quite normal changes that children go through, especially with hormonal changes as they reach puberty.

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Common physical signs of child sexual abuse

If you observe any of the following with your child, it should be a major red flag:

  • An infection that may be sexually transmitted
  • Signs of trauma around the genital area or anus
  • Difficulty in walking or sitting
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Unexplained bleeding, bruising, or blood on sheets, underwear, or other clothing
  • Unexplained health problems such as stomach aches and headaches (which may be linked to anxiety from their experiences)

As well as being possible signs of sexual abuse, these problems may require urgent medical attention so a trip to a clinic or hospital for a medical checkup will be necessary.

Behavioral signs of sexual abuse

Watch for the following signs in your child:

  • Age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual topics
  • Age-inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Excessive talk about sexual issues
  • Disturbing, sexually explicit drawings
  • Not talking as much as usual (signs of keeping secrets)
  • Fear of being left alone with certain people
  • Resuming behaviors that they had grown out of (e.g., bedwetting)
  • An excessive desire to be alone
  • Nervousness when removing clothing or at bath time
  • A change in eating habits
  • An unusual lack of interest in school, activities, and friends
  • Abnormal sleeping patterns
  • Sexually promiscuous behavior
  • Cruelty to others or animals

Emotional signs of sexual abuse

Watch for the following emotional changes in your child:

  • A sudden change in mood or personality
  • Increased aggression
  • Lack of confidence
  • Excessive fear, anxiety, or worry
  • Nightmares
  • Fear of being left alone at night
  • Self-harm

Of course, many of the above warning signs are connected. Some are also normal for children to go through. Recognizing one of the emotional and behavioral warning signs of abuse in your child does not necessarily mean he or she is being abused.

The warning signs are simply red flags to probe deeper and investigate – rather than to let it go and explain it off as “growing pains”.

What are the warning signs of an adult hurting a child?

In addition to the warning signs of abuse that a child may display, we should also be on the lookout for certain types of unsettling behavior in adults holding positions of responsibility with children.

Again, many of the warning signs taken in isolation may be normal. If there is a range of factors present to make a parent or other caregiver feel uneasy about a person, it warrants further investigation.

Remember, over 90 percent of child sexual assault victims know the perpetrator and therefore are generally in positions of trust with the child.

Be wary of someone who

  • Regularly crosses personal “boundaries” with your child
  • Won’t take “no” for an answer
  • Engages in touching children (even playful tickling or massage may be grooming behavior)
  • Carries on unwanted behavior even after being asked to stop
  • Forms a friendship that is not appropriate to the role they fill in the child’s life
  • Finds opportunities to be alone with children
  • Becomes a key “provider” in your child’s life – rides, overnight stays, etc.
  • Gives a child gifts and excessive attention
  • Comments on a child’s sexual development inappropriately

Parents and primary caregivers need to act on their instincts with their children. If someone is acting in a way around your child that makes you uncomfortable, investigate it. Watch for the warning signs of abuse, talk to your child and report any concerns to the relevant authorities if necessary.

If you need to contact the lawyers at Andreozzi & Foote, PC with information on a case involving child sexual abuse, all the information provided will be treated confidentially, including your identity. Start with a free and confidential consultation.

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