As a youth leader in my church, and as an adult who was sexually molested as a child, I’ve learned to be able to see the signs a child has been sexually abused or is being sexually abused. Now, not all of the signs listed below indicate your teen, or someone you know has been sexually abused, but if you see any of these behaviors, please ask or get someone who can help.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Withdrawn – When a child has been sexually abused, they tend to withdraw themselves from any type of social interaction, especially with adults.
Reject affection – Often a sexually abused child will reject any form of affection from adults or their peers. This includes hugging and/or terms of endearment.
Lack of confidence – A child who has been sexually abused tends to lack confidence in themselves and therefore thinks they aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, tough enough or good at anything. They also tend to think no one likes them.
Act out Sexually – Children who have been sexually abused in the past tend to act out sexually in their teen years. They are more promiscuous and will usually end up sleeping with just about anyone who will have them.
Starved for Attention – When a child has been, or is being sexually abused, they may appear to be starving for attention; doing anything and everything they can for some sort of attention.
What you can do
If you see these signs in your teen or in someone you know, please don’t hesitate to talk to them about it. You can start out by simply asking: “Has anyone ever touched you inappropriately?” They may be afraid, but you should be able to detect if they are hiding something. If a child has not been sexually abused, they will often answer with an emphatic NO. However, if they hesitate, or say “I don’t know” or look down and quietly say no, then most likely they have been and the perpetrator needs to be stopped immediately.
Your teen may be afraid to answer for fear of being hurt by the perpetrator or perhaps hurting your feeling, especially if the perpetrator is your spouse, sibling, other relative or close association. But, even if you have the tiniest suspicion your teen is being or has been sexually abused, call 911 immediately and seek out counseling for your teen.
Sexual abuse is very damaging to a person’s soul and if left untreated, the damage will carry on into their adult years.
Also, remember that it is NEVER a child’s fault if they’ve been sexually abused.
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