Signs of Sexual Abuse

Signs of Sexual Abuse
Q:
Signs of Sexual Abuse

I’m worried that my child might have been sexually abused. Are there any clues, aside from what they say (or don’t say), that point to sexual abuse?

A:

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Children who have actually been abused will often recant their initial statement because they are afraid of their abuser or because their abuser convinces them that this is “their little secret.” Several clues are associated with sexual abuse(but many children give no clues except what they say):

 
In most cases of sexual abuse, there are no injuries noted on physical exam. Thus, the history provided by the child is often key to finding out what happened (Pediatrics 2005;116;506-512).

Hopefully, nothing significant happened to your child, but if you’re really concerned, do not let the situation go uninvestigated. Whatever turns out to have happened, remember that we must prepare our children to protect themselves against sexual abuse. Begin by teaching them the proper names and significance of their private parts as soon as they are able to understand (about age 3). Then they will be ready to understand the three key messages:

  1. Say no if somebody tries to touch your nipples, rectum, or genitals.
  2. Tell a trusted adult if someone tries to touch you.
  3. Don’t keep secrets. If somebody tells you to keep a secret, let your parents know right away.

 

Reviewed by: Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin, Rebecca Hicks
Last reviewed: September 05, 2008
Dr. Alan Greene

Article written by

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

 

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