Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Physical Child Abuse:

Bite marks, cuts, bruises, welts in the shape of an object, resistance to going home, fear of adults, defense wounds, apathy, depression, difficulty concentrating.

Some Signs of Neglect:

Wearing clothing unsuited to weather, being dirty or unbathed, extreme hunger, apparent lack of supervision.

Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse:

· Adults who spend unusual amounts of time with your child. Eighty percent of all suspects are known to the victim (i.e. family member, neighbor, friend)
· Withdrawal
· Rashes or itching in genital areas
· Acting out, runaway, aggressive behavior
· Fearful of certain places, things, or people
· Sudden acquisition of money, new clothes, or gifts with no reasonable explanation
· Interest and/or knowledge of sexual acts and language inappropriate to the child’s age
· Clinical depression, apathy
· Frequent urinary infections
· Wetting or soiling pants or bed
· Sleeping problems such as nightmares
· Unexplained stomach aches, headaches
· School problems, frequent absences, sudden drop in school performance
· Diagnosis of genital warts
· Exceptional secrecy
· Shy or uneasy with opposite sex
· Fear of bathroom or shower
· Attempts at touching adults’, children’s, or animals’ genitals
· Reluctance to undress
· Avoidance of touch
· Violence or aggression against younger children
· Compulsive, indiscreet masturbation
· Suicide attempt or self-mutilation
· Dresses self with more layers of clothing than weather dictates
· Combination of violence and sexuality in art work, written work, language or play
· Crying without provocation
(Taken from the Utah County Crimes Task Force)

Some long-term symptoms and warning signs of possible sexual abuse:

· Feeling that you are in the way.
· A tendency to over apologize and be overly solicitous to the point of making others angry.
· Feeling that you are stupid, a failure, a loser.
· Guilt feelings and feelings of shame.
· Tendency to blame yourself for whatever goes wrong.
· Inability to complete tasks.
· A tendency to sabotage success. (Victims often do not believe they deserve good things.)
· Tendency to be victimized by others.
· Feelings of helplessness.
· Difficulty trusting others.
· Being distant, aloof.
· Tendency to be involved with destructive people who abuse you physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually.
· Lack of empathy or concern for others.
· A deep sense of isolation.
· Difficulty with physical affection.
· Secrecy, evasiveness, and tendency to withhold information from others.
· A tendency to “give yourself away,” including helping others so much that you become exhausted.
· Difficulties with authority figures.
· Difficulty communicating desires, thoughts, and feelings to others.
· Difficulty receiving from others.
· Intense anger and rage that sometimes burst our unexpectedly.
· Mood swings, ranging from deep depression to an overactive, manic state.
· Chronic depression, resulting in sleeping too much and feeling apathetic, lethargic, hopeless, and even suicidal.
· Dissociation, “splitting off” from oneself that probably started as a protection from the pain and devastation of the sexual abuse.
· Extreme fears or phobias.
· Sleep disturbances.
· Addiction to food, alcohol, or drugs.
· Obsessive/compulsive behavior.
· Eating disorders.
· Flashbacks, hallucinations.
· Abusive behavior.
· Self-destructive behavior.
· Somatic symptoms.
· Tendency to be accident-prone.

(Taken from The Right to Innocence: Healing the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Beverly Engel, M.F.C.C., pages 25-32.)

*Keep in mind that most victims do not suffer from all of these symptoms. Also, suffering from one or a few of these symptoms does not mean that you have been a victim of sexual abuse, but it may be something for you to consider.