Signs of Abuse
1.Unexplained Injuries Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child’s injuries.
2. Changes in behavior Abuse can lead to many changes in a child’s behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
3. Returning to earlier behaviors Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue.
4. Fear of going home Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
5. Changes in eating The stress, fear and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or loss.
6. Changes in sleeping Abused children may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.
7. Changes in school performance and attendance Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the child’s injuries from authorities.
8. Lack of personal care or hygiene Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
9. Risk-taking behaviors Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.
10. Inappropriate sexual behaviors Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.
If you recognize any of these signs from a child, do not hesitate to do something about it. Whether it is bringing it up to them and getting confirmation, or reporting abuse of any kind right away. Learn more about the signs of abuse and how to report.
Myths of Abuse
1. He looks normal and acts normal, so he can’t be a child molester. Sex offenders are knowledgeable about the importance of their public image, and can hide their private behaviors. Parents and other responsible adults trust these individuals. This leads to continued access to child victims.
2. Only Men Sexually Abuse Children. While male perpetrators tend to be the majority of reported cases of abuse, women are also capable of child sexual assault and reports of female perpetrators are on the rise.
3. Child molesters target any and all children nearby. Just because a child is in the proximity of a sex offender, this does not mean that the child will automatically become a target or a victim. Not every child fits the mold of what a pedophile is looking for.
4. Abused children always tell! Children who have been victims of sexual assault often have extreme difficulty in disclosing their victimization and if they do, it will not be immediate. Sex offenders will emotionally victimize a child to prevent the truth from being uncovered.
5. The Victim is Always a Girl. Just as women can be sex offenders, boys may be victims of abuse. Unfortunately, child sexual abuse with male victims is underreported due to social and cultural attitudes: boys are taught to fight back and not let others see vulnerability.
6. Child victims of sexual abuse will have physical signs of the abuse. An absence of physical evidence is often used as support that a perpetrator must be innocent. Many acts leave no physical trace.
7. Stranger Danger. 85% of all reported cases of child molestation involve a child and a known perpetrator. The people most likely to abuse a child are the ones with the most opportunity, most access, and most trust such as parents, step-parents, uncles, aunts, babysitters, tutors, and family friends.
8. Sexual victimization as a child will inevitably result in the child growing up to become a sex offender. Early childhood sexual victimization does not automatically lead to sexually aggressive behaviors. Research by Jane Gilgun, Judith Becker and John Hunter has indicated that if a child discloses an incident of abuse early and is supported, they have a much higher likelihood to not become perpetrators as adults.
9. Child Sexual Abuse is a cultural or socioeconomic problem. It is frequently believed that abuse is a problem plaguing only certain families or people with a certain level of family income and education. Sexual abuse crosses all socioeconomic, neighborhood, race and class barriers.
These myths and many others create a stigma around sexual abuse and abuse in general. We are on the path to stop this and help people recognize abuse in situations they never thought was possible because of certain beliefs. Learn more about the myths of abuse.