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.

Journaling Quotes

“No one is commonplace, and I doubt if you can ever read a biography from which you can not learn something from the difficulties overcome and the struggles made to succeed. These are the measuring rods for the progress of humanity.”  -Pres. Spencer W. Kimball

“But I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations.”  -Pres. Spencer W. Kimball

“Thoughts are created in the act of writing.  It is a myth that you must have something to say in order to write.  Reality: You often need to write in order to have anything to say.  Thought comes with writing, and writing may never come if it is postponed until we are satisfied that we have something to say. The assertion of write first, see what you had to say later applies to all manifestations of written language, to letters, as well as to diaries and journals.”  -Frank Smith

On Saturday, 20 June 1942,  Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who eventually died in the Holocaust, wrote the following in her personal journal: “I haven’t written for a few days, because I wanted first of all to think about my diary. It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I- nor for that matter anyone else- will be interested in the unbosoming of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.  Still, what does that matter?  I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”  -Anne Frank

“My journal took on a whole new role.  Sometimes it was my best friend or trusted confidant.  Sometimes it was a good place to sort out my feelings and remember friendships and experiences. Sometimes it was a goal-setting instrument or just a convenient place for creative expression.  Sometimes it became my psychologist or a means of solving my problems.  -Janene Woolsey Baadsgaard

“The act of writing in a journal can help a person deal with emotional pressures.  Some people who don’t intend to keep journals–and some who don’t even want to–find themselves writing as they try to cope with difficulties.  Christian theologian C.S. Lewis didn’t even approve of the journal he spontaneously kept following the death of his wife, Helen Joy Lewis. But those notebooks became his emotional salvation as he recorded his struggles with grief. (Published first under a pseudonym and then under his own name, the journals were entitled A Grief Observed.)”  -Janet Brigham

“You start communicating in your journal and then you are on your way to communicating with other people.”  -Janet Brigham

A women pen-named Martha Martin who was isolated by an avalanche in Alaska undated journal entry from the 1920’s: “I can hardly write, but I must.  For two reasons.  First I am afraid I may never live to tell my story, and second, I must do something to keep my sanity.”  -From talk by Janet Brigham

Sophie Tolstoy, wife of Russian author Leo Tolstoy, journal entry of 35 Feb. 1865: “I am so often left alone with my thoughts that the desire to write my diary is quite natural.  I sometimes feel depressed, but now it seems wonderful to be able to think everything over for myself, without having to say anything about it to other people.  -From talk by Janet Brigham

“By recording our impressions and feelings in a journal, we come to better understand ourselves and recognize the responsibility we must take for our actions. We begin to see the whole situation more clearly–and receive insight into how to solve our problems. A journal can help us see our choices and alternatives more clearly.”

“Our worries can become less worrisome and our fears less fearful when we write them down. Explaining our thoughts and feelings on paper can help relieve us of the turmoil and distress we might have felt. Expressing private feelings on paper can help to heal private hurts.” -Gawain and Gayle J. Wells

“Keeping a journal will change your life in ways that you’d never imagine.”  -Oprah Winfrey

“Confessional writing has been around at least since the Renaissance, but new research suggests that it’s far more therapeutic than anyone ever knew: Researchers found direct physiological evidence (that writing about your feelings and experiences is good for your physical health): writing increased the level of disease-fighting lymphocytes circulating in the bloodstream.”  –Newsweek April 1999

“The most important thing about journaling is that it must be confidential.  If it is not, then it won’t work.  Worrying about what someone thinks or will say about one’s journal entries defeats the whole purpose of emotional honesty with oneself.  Journaling for mental or physical health is nothing to be trifled with. It is a powerful tool and can unearth lots of emotions.”  -Dr. Lucia Capacchione


Writing is an excellent way to express yourself.  Writing in a journal can really help you organize your thoughts and understand yourself better.  It can also help you deal with your emotions.  Not only is journaling helpful for yourself, it’s helpful for future generations.  Children, grandchildren, and many others can learn from our experiences.  Another important reason for keeping a journal is documentation.  Especially in abusive situations, it can be vital to keep a record of events by writing the date and what happened.  If you end up needing to go to court, this can really help.

Creative Journaling

Creative journaling is a little different than regular journaling.  Creative journaling is more artistic and can be more expressive.  It focuses on emotions.  You do some writing, but you also get to draw pictures and then write about the meaning in those pictures.  Dr. Lucia Capacchione created this method, and it can be very therapeutic.  To learn more about creative journaling, check out her books:  The Power of the Other Hand and Recovery of Your Inner Child.

Gratitude Journals

Especially when going through a crisis, we can easily forget the good things in life.  A good way to remember ways we are blessed is to keep a gratitude journal.  Every night or every week, you can simply record a few things you’re grateful for.  You will be amazed at the difference you feel.  You will start to recognize more and more things you’re grateful for.  Hopefully, life will not seem quite so dreary.  Abusive situations are extremely difficult and draining, but if you can find even one tiny reason to smile, it can make a big difference.

Humor Journals

A humor journal is a journal you record funny experiences or jokes in.  Someone very wise once said, “The crisis of today is the humor of tomorrow.”  Laughter and humor give us hope.  Compiling humorous stories into a humor journal can be something fun for you, your children, or your friends to look at on a day you or they need to laugh.  Laughter can lighten our moods and remind us we don’t always need to be so serious.  It can also relieve stress.

Anger Journals

Sometimes we may hesitate to record something in our regular journal because it may not be something we want anyone else to read.  This is one of the reasons an anger journal may be helpful for you.  Anger journals don’t need to be shown to anyone else unless you want to.  You can write freely without worrying about what someone will think.  Anyone who has been abused or is involved currently in an abusive situation understands you can feel a lot of anger.  Whenever you feel angry or upset, you can open your anger journal and write or draw a picture about your anger, and no one ever has to see it.  If you’re worried about someone finding your anger journal you may want to lock it up or keep it at a trusted friend’s house.  Too often, we think of anger as a negative emotion.  It is not a negative emotion, but it can cause negative actions if not dealt with properly.  Instead of bottling up anger, let it out in an anger journal.