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What are the Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse?

December 24, 2011

Sex abuse memories can be repressed for years.

The signs of sexual abuse are important to know. Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when a person exhibits the signs:

  • An increase in nightmares and/or other sleeping difficulties
  • Angry outbursts
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Pregnancy or contraction of a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
  • Propensity to run away
  • Refusal to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
  • Regressive behaviors depending on their age (e.g., return to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting)
  • Reluctance to be left alone with a particular person or people
  • Sexual knowledge, language, and/or behaviors that are unusual and inappropriate for their age

Take it very seriously when a child reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver. You may want to consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially those of the opposite sex
Is secretive and isolated
Describes marital difficulties involving sexual relations or family power struggles.

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