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?

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.


Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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  1. Susan

    Hi , Today i noticed one gray hair on my 13 year old daughter. She can get stressed really easily but is that it. And she eats a few veg and lots of meat. At 16 i got my first grey hair so. And will her hair get natural colour back you think , she has very fine hair and it doesn’t grow much either. Hair colour brown aswell.

  2. WD

    I have a 5 year old son his behaviours occasionally include humping a pillow when he’s alone and twice he worked his way underneath me into a doggie style position. We were dressed of course, but the comfort he expressed was disturbing. (behaviours)

    . His stool is very big; frighteningly so, yet it looks normal and discharges without effort or any discomfort. His anus appears really relaxed. (loose bottom)

    . He has a 12 you ar old step brother who’s going through puberty and has access to pornography. His stepbrothers’ father has a history of sexually abusing his step brother when he was 12 years old. He also has a reputation of sexually interfering with many women. His rapes were sealed by the courts as he was a juvenile. (role modeling and probable values learned from a parent)

    . If the loose anus and effortless disscharges are normal, and the mimicking behaviours not indicative, there’s no problem, only an overly concerned parent.

    . But if there’s abuse and routine penetration’s, what can I do?

  3. mom

    I caught my 10 year old son laying on top of my 5 year old daughter bare skinned. I immediately called and talked to my husband, and called the authorities. My son is now in state care, and my daughter was taken to a sexual abuse clinic. As their mother, I am mortified. I’m scared for my children. My son is a high functioning autistic, so this makes things more complicated. My husband and I plan on placing him in a children’s psych ward, so he can be placed on medication that will work better to balance him out. We are scared to have him come back home. My husband (my sons step father) doesn’t want him back in our home at all. Everything is so confusing.

  4. Marie

    I’m in need of some information. I need it about signs of a toddler being sexually abused. She doesn’t talk yet …


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