Friday, November 18, 2011

Sexual Abuse: Know the Signs - Be an Educated Parent

Sexual abuse can be a single incident or many acts over a long period of time. There usually are subtle signs along the way that can be overlooked. Here are a few possible warnings of sexual abuse. Look for a change in your child’s normal behavior that last or become more intense.

Of course, there could be another explanation but any of these signs should be addressed. If you have any suspicions or a feeling something is wrong, seek help of a mental health professional.

Physical Signs: Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes; pain, bleeding, burning, or itching in genital area; difficulty walking or sitting; frequent urinary or yeast infections; STD or pregnancy
Psychosomatic Signs: Stomachaches, headaches or marked mood swings; nightmares or trouble sleeping; sudden changes in appetite
Sexual Behavior Signs: Uses adult-like sexual knowledge, language or behavior; writes, draws or plays out sexual-type images; frequent use of masturbation
Emotional Signs: Resorts to aggressive behaviors: thumb-sucking, bed-wetting; sudden clinginess; depressed
Behavioral Signs: Shrinks away or seems threatened by physical contact; excessive bathing, poor hygiene; or talks about self as dirty or bad; trouble focusing; seems distracted or distant at odd times; overly protective and concerned for siblings, assumes a caretaker role; talks about a new, older friend; jumpy if the phone rings, a text or email comes in; suddenly has unaccountable money, gifts, toys or mail; runs to mailbox

If there was something your child said or did that made you concerned, ask. Do know that a child may not admit or deny the abuse usually due to fear, humiliation, guilt or shame, but studies show that if asked, kids generally will tell a trusted adult of their abuse.

Special contributor: Dr. Michele Borba

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