Signs & Symptoms of Sexual Abuse

There is not one symptom or set of symptoms that would clearly indicate that a child has been sexually abused. This list is only to be used as a guideline. Therefore, it is important to watch for any changes (increases or decreases) in your child’s behavior. When concerning behaviors last over days or weeks, occurs frequently, or with intensity, it is important to seek out a professional with expertise in the area of child sexual abuse for a thorough evaluation.

Expected or Natural Behaviors
  • Asks about the genitals, breasts, intercourse, and babies.
  • Plays doctor, inspecting others’ bodies.
  • Boys and girls are interested in having/birthing a baby.
  • Show others his/her genitals.
  • Touches/rubs own genitals when going to sleep, when tense, excited or afraid.
  • Plays house, may simulate all roles of mommy and daddy.
  • Talks about sex with friends. Talks about having a girl/boy friend.
  • Wants privacy when in bathroom changing clothes.
  • Likes to hear or tell “dirty” jokes.
  • Looks at nude pictures.

Concerning Sexual Behaviors
  • Endless questions about sex. Sexual knowledge too great for age.
  • Forces child to play doctor, to take off clothes.
  • Displays fear or anger about babies or intercourse.
  • Refuses to put on clothes. Exposes self in public after being corrected
    for behavior.
  • Touches/rubs self in public or in private to the exclusion of normal
    childhood activities.
  • Imitates intercourse with another child.
  • Forces sex on other child.
  • Talks about sex and sexual acts a lot.
  • Repeatedly in trouble in regard to sexual behavior.
  • Aggressive or tearful demands for privacy.
  • Still tells “dirty” jokes even after being corrected for behavior.
  • Continuous fascination with nude pictures.

Additional Potential Signs of Abuse
  • Dramatic changes in sleep patterns or behavior.
  • Running away.
  • Change in hygiene, weight gain/loss.
  • Cutting, burning, or causing pain to themselves.
  • Frequent urinary tract infections.
  • Fear or resistance to a particular person or setting.
  • Attempt or talk of suicide.
  • Loss of interest in activities the child once enjoyed.
  • Use of drugs or alcohol


Some child victims never show outward symptoms of trauma so it is essential that you have good communication with your child. Talk to your child about what to do if they feel uncomfortable with an adult or adolescent and take care not to leave your child alone in one-on-one situations. 


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