Childhood sexual abuse has serious long-term implications for its victims and their families. It is also more common than many people realize.
It can be difficult to identify victims since children may be afraid to report the occurrence out of misguided shame or fear of retaliation from their abusers. Compounding this is the fact that, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 93% of the assailants are people the children know. The children may also believe that nobody will believe them because of this. Certain signs may indicate that a child is a victim of sexual abuse.
1. Sudden shifts in behavior and attitude
Children who suffer a sexual assault may suddenly become aggressive and display unreasonable anger. They may behave rebelliously or hostilely contrary to previous behavior. If they were previously sociable, they may become withdrawn, anxious, depressed and quiet. They may refuse to communicate with friends and family the way they did before and may no longer enjoy previously loved activities. Regressive behavior, acting in ways they have not since they were a child (calling a parent “mommy” or “daddy” suddenly when it is not normal, sucking on their thumbs, etc.) is another indicator.
2. Nighttime problems
Having frequent nightmares without explanation may also be an indicator of sexual abuse. Victims may also have difficulty sleeping or fear going to sleep or being in the dark when they did not harbor such fears before.
3. A decline in academic performance
Previously studious children may suddenly stop caring about school. Their grades may drop as they let assignments go unfinished or fail tests due to not studying enough.
The presence of these indicators is a cause for concern. Even if they do not indicate sexual abuse, they may indicate other problems with the children that also require further investigation.