It’s important to understand that not every child who has been a victim of sexual abuse displays any warning signs. Often, parents and guardians blame themselves for not noticing the signs when actually there weren’t any. In reality, the only person to blame is the abuser as well as any accomplices who may have tried to hide the abuse.
However, there are some common symptoms among victims of child abuse. These include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
- Regression such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking
Symptoms typically vary with age as well as with the extent of the abuse. There is no cookie cutter outline for child victims, and as mentioned above, some victims show virtually no signs at all. The American Psychological Association says that many victims between ages 4 and 10 tend to dissociate themselves from abuse, which is often why it’s difficult for victims to report it — even as adults. This denial may cause the effects of the abuse to surface much later in life.
Studies show that girls tend to be victims of sexual assault more than boys, but these numbers are only based on reported sexual abuse. Victims may begin to experience overwhelming feelings of guilt and abandonment, which can sometimes amplify other symptoms like those listed above. If the abuse involved a member of clergy, your child may also experience some confusion about religion or spirituality.
If you suspect your child has been abused, contact your local law enforcement and a lawyer immediately.