Children who are sexually abused may:
Are you staying away from certain people?
- they might avoid being alone with people, such as family members or friends
- they could seem frightened of a person or unwilling to socialise with them.
Show sexual behaviour that’s inappropriate for their age
- a child might become sexually active at a young age
- they might be promiscuous
- they could use sexual language or know information that they shouldn’t know
- anal or vaginal soreness
- an unusual discharge
- sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Are you being withdrawn, behaving differently or overly anxious?
- Being clingy, depressed, real problems with sleeping
- eating disorders wets the bed soils clothes
- taking unnecessary risks missing school changes in eating habits obsessive behaviour
- nightmares issues withdrugs alcohol self-harm
- thoughts about suicide
- A shift in disposition or mood, such as anxiety, depression, anger, rebellion, withdrawal, or clinginess.
- Running away from home
- Too “perfect” behaviour
- Disturbances in sleep, such as nightmares or night terrors
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in attitude towards school or academics
- Sudden refusal to change for gym or participate in physical activities
- Unusual fear of certain people or places
- Reluctance to be left alone with a certain person
- Changes in body perception, such as thinking of themselves or their bodies as being dirty or bad
- Regression to outgrown behaviours, such as bedwetting or thumb sucking
- Bizarre, sophisticated, unusual, or age-inappropriate sexual behaviour or language
- Abuse of other children sexually, or attempts to undress other people
- Contracts sexually transmitted infections (previously known as STDs)
- Vaginal or rectal cuts or tears, pain, itching, swelling, bleeding, or discharge
- Trauma to breasts, buttocks, or lower abdomen
- Blood in the child’s underwear
- Unexplained or frequent health problems such as headaches or stomach aches
- Difficulty with bowel movements, urinating, or swallowing
- Self-mutilation, such as biting self, pulling out hair, or wrist-cutting
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Any child can be victim to child abuse, however children who are vulnerable, isolated and/or have a disability are disproportionately abused.
- Child abuse is often committed by someone the child knows well such as a family member or someone within the early childhood setting. In fact, child abuse can be committed by any member of the community.
- Regardless of who the perpetrator or victim is, the trauma of child abuse can have a devastating and lifelong impact upon a child’s wellbeing and development.
- This is why it is critical that we respond immediately to any form of suspected abuse within our communities.
- bruises, welts, cuts/grazes or burns (especially those on back, bottom, legs, arms and inner thighs or in unusual configurations and may resemble an object)
- internal injuries and bone fractures not consistent with the explanation offered
- any injury to the genital or rectal area (e.g. bruising, bleeding, infection or anything causing pain to go to the toilet)
- wearing clothes unsuitable for weather conditions to hide injuries
- sexually-transmitted diseases and/or frequent urinary tract infections
- appearing consistently dirty and unwashed and/or inappropriately dressed for weather conditions
- being consistently hungry, tired and listless having unattended health problems and lack of routine medical care.
- self-stimulatory behaviours, for example, rocking, head banging
- crying excessively, or not at all
- listless and immobile and/or emancipated and pale
- significant delays in gross motor development and coordination
- inadequate attention to the safety of the home (e.g. dangerous medicines left where children may have access to them)
- being left unsupervised, either at home, on the street or in a car
- parent/carer is unresponsive or impatient to child’s cues and unreceptive to support
- developmental delay due to lack of stimulation.
- disclosure of abuse and/or drawings or writing which depicts violence and abuse
- inconsistent or unlikely explanation for an injury, or inability to remember the cause
- regressive or unusual changes to behaviour (E.g. sudden decline in academic performance, nervousness, depression, withdrawal, hyperactivity, aggression, bedwetting)
- reluctance to go home and/or a wariness or fear of a parent/carer
- persistent and age-inappropriate sexual activity (e.g. excessive masturbation or rubbing genitals against adults, promiscuity)
- suicide or self-harm, harm to others or animals
- an unusually close connection with an older person
- possessing expensive gifts or money (e.g. a new mobile phone given to them by a “friend”)
- taking on a caretaker role prematurely, trying to protect other family members.
- attempts by one parent to alienate their child from the other parent
- overprotective or volatile relationships
- reluctance by the child to be alone with one or more of their family members
- a child and a sibling behaving like boyfriend and girlfriend (embarrassment if they are found alone together).
- touching a child inappropriately
- befriending the parents/carers of the child and making visits to their home
- undermining the child’s reputation, so that the child won’t be believed
- bringing up sexual material or personal disclosures into conversations with a child
- obvious or inappropriate preferential treatment of the child. (e.g. making them feel “special”)
- inappropriate contact with the child, (e.g. calls, emails, texts, social media)
- giving inappropriate/expensive gifts to a child
- having inappropriate social boundaries, e.g. telling the child about their own personal problems
Have physical symptoms
Things you may notice
If you’re worried that a child is being abused, watch out for any unusual behaviour.
Behavioural and emotional signs may include:
Physical signs of child sexual abuse may include:
Who is most likely to be impacted by child abuse?
Common PHYSICAL indicators of child abuse
Common BEHAVIOURAL indicators of child abuse
In an infant or toddler:
In all children:
unusual fear of physical contact with adults
Common indicators of adults abusing children
Family members (parents, siblings, extended family)
Other adults (service staff member, volunteers, coaches etc.)