Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse

  • 16 Jul, 2016

By:  Claire R. Reeves, MA, C.C.D.C., Ph.D.
Author:  Childhood – It Should Not Hurt
President/Founder:  Mothers Against Sexual Abuse



Most parents do not believe that their child will fall prey to a predator, but it can happen to any child.  Over 85% of the time the child is violated by someone the child knows and trusts.  Parents must educate themselves as to what to look for in their own children.  Children rarely disclose that they are being sexually abused because of threats from the predator, or just the manipulation and grooming process that predators use to gain the trust of the child and the trust of the parents.

1.     A normal, happy child suddenly becomes moody, has tantrums, threatens to run away, has a complete change in personality.   (While some of this may be normal behavior, depending on the age of the child, it bears watching).

2.    Acts out sexually with other children or tries to act out with parents or other adults in the family.

3.    Tries to put foreign objects in the vagina, this is especially prevalent when you are bathing the child.

4.     Has night terrors or is afraid of the dark.

5.    Is afraid of one person and cries or does not want to be near that person.

6.    Has age inappropriate knowledge of sexual acts.

7.    Becomes very secretive about a person and tells you they have a secret.  (While some secrets such as a birthday party are good secrets, some are not).  Be aware!

8.    Loses interest in school or sports or other hobbies or pastimes that the child had previously loved doing.

9.    Cries constantly for no apparent reason.

10.  Becomes secretive about acquisition of money or gifts.

11.  Bed wetting at night after the child has long been potty trained

12.  Has “accidents” in undergarments or bedclothes, again long after the child has been potty trained.

13.  Wearing multiple layers of clothing, even when it is warm weather.

14.  Refuses to use the bathroom and withholds bowel movements.

15.  Has urinary tract infections on a constant basis.

16.  Sleeps excessively.  (Sleep can be used as a form of escape).

17.  Masturbates excessively.

18.  Uses a vibrator or other sex toys that are age inappropriate.



1.     Ongoing vaginal infections.

2.    Sexually transmitted disease.

3.    Vaginal scarring.

4.    Pre-adolescent broken or detached hymen.

5.    With little boys tears or fissures in the anus.


The very last way that a parent is likely to learn is the child’s disclosure.   Little boys are especially reluctant to tell anyone.  Part of the reason for this is the shame and the predator often tells the child it is his fault or he wanted it.  Predators often tell the child that he is educating the child.  Also children are threatened into silence.  The predator tells the child he will kill the family, kill the dog, telling will break up the family in cases of incest.  No matter what kind of ruse the predator uses it is never the fault of the child, (EVER)!

If your child discloses sexual abuse to you first tell the child that it is not his/her fault.  Take the child to the hospital and they will make a police report if there are any physical symptoms of abuse.  Most of the time there are not.  Make a police report yourself and find a good therapist who treats children who have been sexually abused. 

The therapist is a mandated reporter and will call the proper authorities.  Do not question the child or use a video camera to question the child.  This may be used against you if the case goes to court. 

The most important person here is the child.  Your reassurance will help the child deal with this heinous crime.