Any one of the signs below may have a number of underlying causes, but if you notice 2 or more of these symptoms and if the onset is very sudden we recommend that you seek professional guidance.
Not every girl and boy who experiences sexual abuse also shows behavioural problems. Physical signs that undoubtedly indicate sexual violence are rare. Nor are there any specific changes in behaviour indicating that a child is being sexually abused. However, abuse causes some or all of the emotions below in victims:
All these confusing and exhausting feelings make it hard for affected girls and boys to communicate.
If a child suddenly or gradually behaves differently than usual for inexplicable reasons – for example, withdraws, acts aggressively, no longer enjoys his or her hobbies – then that is a sign that the child is in distress, feels depressed and weighed down by something. A number of reasons could cause this change in behaviour, such as the developmental phase of defiance, puberty, separation, or suffering violence and abuse. To find out what’s going on, adults need to take the time to get a conversation started with the child or teenager.
Affected children often drop subtle hints. They suddenly don’t feel like exercising any more, don’t want to play on the smartphone or visit the neighbours.
If these needs are ignored, girls and boys often lose the courage to confide in others. But if they are asked more detailed questions, they might be able to open up.
Subtle hints and changes in behaviour are something like a symbolic language children and teenagers use with adults. These signs need to be noticed and correctly interpreted if we are to act to protect our children.