Child Sexual Abuse Warning Signs

If you're concerned that your child is being sexually abused, look for the following possible warning signs:
  • Changes in behavior: withdrawal, fearfulness, crying without provocation, aggression, needy, low self-esteem, severe depression, suicidal, excessive,need to control.
  • Night sweats with screaming or shaking, insomnia or nightmares.
  • Regression to more infantile behavior: bedwetting, thumb sucking.
  • Loss of appetite or other eating problems.
  • Chronic illness.
  • Poorly explained injuries: bruises, rashes, cuts, genital pain or bleeding.
  • Sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person.
  • Unusual interest in or knowledge of sexually related matters; inappropriate expression of affection; weak boundaries, unhealthy choices in members of the opposite sex.
  • People-pleasing and rescuing.
  • Addictions: drugs, alcohol, sex, food, relationship.
  • Running away, wanting to leave school, victim of bullying.
Children often won't tell you straight up that something is happening to them, because they've been threatened, they may be ashamed, or they may not want to talk to you about it. Think about these warning signs and ask questions. Create a dialogue if you're worried about what's going on with a child. Seek help from a professional trained in child sexual abuse.

Symptoms of Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

If you're concerned that an adult friend has been sexually abused, look for the following possible warning signs:
  • Severe depression, fear, anger, guilt or low self-esteem.
  • Self-destructive behaviors including suicidal tendencies.
  • Being "too nice" or overly concerned with pleasing other people. Feeling responsible for others and/or protecting others.
  • Caught within extremes of promiscuity and seductiveness and/or no sexual interest at all.
  • Feeling ugly or dirty inside. Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, shame, secrecy or isolation. Feeling uniquely different.
  • Emotional pain may be symptomatically expressed by various kinds of problems such as: eating disorders, many types of physical ailments, a compulsive need to achieve and prove worth, substance abuse, and others.
  • A tendency to sexualize relationships and feelings. Difficulty with physical affection.
  • Inability to complete tasks or a tendency to sabotage success. Victims often do not believe they deserve good things to happen to them.
  • A tendency to self-blame for whatever goes wrong; to over-apologize.
  • Trouble being assertive. A tendency to be victimized by others.
  • Inability to form, or difficulty with, relationships and trusting others. Being distant or aloof.
  • Sleep disturbances including nightmares, insomnia, night sweats/chills, or waking up at the same time every night.

Sexual Predator Warning Signs

There are some common characteristics of sexual predators. If you're worried your teen may be a sexual predator, look for these warning signs:
  • Refusal to take responsibility for actions and blames others or circumstances for failures.
  • A sense of entitlement.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Need for power and control.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Inability to form intimate relationships with adults.
  • A history of abuse.
  • Troubled childhood.
  • Deviant sexual behavior and attitudes.
From the book Protecting Your Children from Sexual Predators by Dr. Leigh M. Baker. Other tips for spotting sexual predators:
  • Often offend where they won't get caught when they have misdirected people's attention.
  • Often married or in relationships.
  • Offend when the victim is handy.
  • Not always strangers, often family members, family friends and neighbors.
  • Good manipulators (seduction is an integral part).
  • Overly self-indulgent.
  • Arrogant.
  • Sexualize, objectify women.
  • Users of various kinds of pornography
  • Typically known to rationalize, intellectualize, justify.
  • Great helpers - are there to lend a helping hand - prey on people in need.
  • Use stressful and vulnerable situations to get in - they find a need they can fill and they use that to get next to the victim.

Common Attributes of Child Molesters

The following is a list of some of the common attributes of child molestors.
  • Pedophiles are notoriously friendly, nice, kind, engaging and likeable.
  • Pedophiles target their victims, often insinuating themselves into that child's life through their family, school, house of worship, sports, and hobbies.
  • Pedophiles are professional con artists and are experts at getting children and families to trust them.
  • Pedophiles will smile at you, look you right in the eye and make you believe they are trustworthy.

How to Help a Survivor

Excerpts from "The Courage to Heal" by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis
When a survivor tells you that she was sexually abused as a child, she is entrusting you with a part of her life that is painful, frightening, and vulnerable. These guidelines can help you honor that trust and assist her healing:"
  • Be willing to listen.
  • Join with the survivor in validating the damage.
  • Be clear that abuse is never the child's fault.
  • Educate yourself about sexual abuse and the healing process.
  • Don't sympathize with the abuser.
  • Validate the survivor's feelings: her anger, pain, and fear.
  • Express your compassion.
  • Respect the time and space it takes to heal.
  • Get help if the survivor is suicidal.
  • Accept that there will very likely be major changes in your relationship with the survivor as she heals.
  • Resist seeing the survivor as a victim.