What Are The Warning Signs?
Do you notice some of the following behaviours in children you know well?
- Nightmares, trouble sleeping, fear of the dark, or other sleeping problems
- Extreme fear of “monsters”
- “Spacing out” at odd times
- Loss of appetite, or trouble eating or swallowing
- Sudden mood swings, rage, fear, anger or withdrawal
- Fear of certain people or places i.e. a child may not want to be left alone with a baby-sitter, a friend, a relative or some other child or adult, or a child who is usually talkative and cheery may become quiet and distant when around a certain person
- Stomach illness all the time with no identifiable reason
- An older child behaving like a younger child, such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking
- Sexual activities with toys or other children, such as simulating sex with dolls or asking other children/siblings to behave sexually
- New words for private body parts
- Refusing to talk about a “secret” he/she has with an adult or older child
- Talking about a new older friend
- Suddenly having money
- Cutting or burning herself or himself as an adolescent
Some of these behavioural signs can show up at other stressful times in a child's life such as divorce, the death of a family member, friend or pet, or when there are problems in school, as well as when abuse is involved.
Any one sign does not mean that the child is abused, but several of them mean that you should be asking some questions.
Physical Warning Signs A Child Might Have Been Sexually Abused
Does a child close to you have
- Unexplained bruises, redness, or bleeding of the child’s genitals, anus or mouth
- Pain at the genitals, anus or mouth
- Genital sores or milky fluids in the genital area
- If you said yes to any of these examples, take your child to the doctor
Things To Watch For When Adults Are With Children
Have you ever seen someone playing with a child and felt uncomfortable with it?
Did you think that you might be over-reacting? Did you think that he/she didn’t really mean it?
Do not ignore the behaviour; learn how to ask more questions about what you have seen.
The statistics are alarming and conservative! Estimates say that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys has been sexually abused before age 18.
Who Are The Abusers?
They are men and women, teenagers and adults of all ages. Ninety percent of the victims of child sexual abuse know their abusers. They are the fathers, mothers, siblings, close relatives, friends or other caretakers of children.
They are rarely the monsters lurking around the corners of our playgrounds, or driving by in their car with the offer of candy!
Use This Checklist
Do you know an adult or older child who:
- Refuses to let a child set any of his or her own limits?
- Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even when the child does not want the affection?
- Is overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen (e.g. talks repeatedly about the child’s developing body or interferes with normal teen dating?)
- Manages to get time alone or insists on time alone with a child with no interruptions?
- Spends most of his/her spare time with children and has little interest in spending time with someone their own age?
- Regularly offers to baby-sit many different children for free or take children on overnight outings alone?
- Buys children expensive gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason?
- Frequently walks in on children/teens in the bathroom?
- Allows children or teens to consistently get away with inappropriate behaviours?
If you have answered “yes” to some of these questions, talk to that person. If you are uncomfortable but do not see these signs, be sure to trust your instincts and ask questions.
For information and advice on how to talk to someone, call the CAS at 519 455-9000.