Sexual abuse isn’t a disease that identifying the symptoms of the same is a cakewalk. Every child is different, so is their response to stress and abuse. And when it comes to sensitive issues like sexual exploitation, recognizing it in a child is even tougher. What makes it harder is the fact that sometimes, a sign of abuse in a child may simply be a juvenile tantrum or general child behaviour. And sometimes, a child may show absolutely no signs of sexual abuse at all. Some kids may express their fear openly, while others may hide it well. Regardless, there are some obvious signs that essentially suggest sexual harassment in a child and adolescent that need to be acknowledged.
The most obvious and unnerving sign is a kid experiencing irritation, pain and/or bleeding in private parts. If a child has unexplained and suspicious marks all over the body and is being hesitant or secretive about them then the same needs to be looked into. The scars or bruises inflicted because of play are different and the ones that come with sexual abuse look different. In addition to these physical signs, there is a possibility of infections in private parts and a STD – Sexually Transmitted Disease.
Fear and/or feelings of detachment from a particular person or a place may indicate sexual harassment. Nightmares, fear of being alone and in the dark or contrastingly, seeming distant and distracted at unusual times are all indications of suffering of some sort. A child may also show symptoms of depression and anxiety. Moreover, random and sudden bursts of anger, irritation, crying and mood swings may be a cause for concern for sure.
A child who may be sexually abused may resist touch from the guardians and parents too. They may refuse to or show discomfort when bathing and changing clothes in front of the parent. There may also be a loss or increase in appetite and unexplained changes in the sleep pattern. Bedwetting and sexual behaviour that is inappropriate for a child, these are some more signs of possible sexual abuse.
Now, these mentioned signs may or may also not indicate sexual exploitation in a child. These may simply be usual traits in a child or behaviours that come with a certain age. On the second hand, there may also be signs that are not mentioned here; some may be very specific to the child and hence, may be difficult to recognize. In retrospect, every caregiver must be able to look for oddity and irregular patterns in a child. If not sexual abuse, these signs definitely raise a red flag for something. In the end, all that matters and truly helps is the power of communication and the existence of an open space for unfiltered conversations between the child and the guardians.
Written and Edited by - Akshi Ranka