- Touching a child's genitals
- Rubbing the abuser's genitals against a child's skin or clothing
- Putting objects into a child's anus or vagina
- Tongue kissing
- Oral sex
- Exposing one's own genitals
- Having a child pose for pornography
- Having a child look at pornography
- Masturbating in front of a child
- Tell you that they are being sexually abused
- Have trouble sitting or standing
- Won't change for gym
- Have sexually transmitted diseases or become pregnant
- Know about and talk about sex
- Run away
- Have adults in their lives that keep them from having contact with other adults
- Keep to themselves and seem to have secrets
- Bowel control problems, such as soiling themselves (encopresis)
- Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa)
- Genital or rectal problems, such as pain when going to the bathroom, or vaginal itch or discharge
- Sleep problems
- Stomach aches
- Use alcohol or drugs
- Engage in high-risk sexual behaviors
- Get poor grades in school
- Have a lot of fears
- Not want to do their normal activities
- Find a provider that knows about sexual abuse. Most pediatricians, family medicine doctors, and emergency room doctors have been trained to examine people that have been sexually abused.
- Have the child examined right away or within 2 to 3 days of discovering the abuse. The signs of sexual abuse don't last long, and the doctor may not be able to tell if you wait too long.
- Look for signs of physical and sexual abuse. The provider will check the child's mouth, throat, anus, and penis or vagina.
- Do blood tests to check for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
- Take photographs of any injuries, if needed.
- Childhelp: www.childhelp.org
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: www.rainn.org
Sexual abuse - children
One in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys are sexually abused before they turn 18.
Sexual abuse of children is any activity that the abuser does to get sexually aroused, including:
Sexual abuse can also happen without physical contact, such as:
Signs of sexual abuse in children
Suspect sexual abuse when children:
Sexually abused children might have:
Sexually abused children may also:
When to contact your doctor
If you think a child has been sexually abused, get the child examined by a health care provider.
During the exam, the provider will:
Get the child any needed medical care. Also get mental health counseling for the child. Active support groups that can help include:
Know that health care providers, teachers, and child care workers are required by law to report sexual abuse. If abuse is suspected, child protection agencies and the police will investigate. The child must be protected from abuse. The child may be placed with a non-abusing parent, another relative, or in a foster home.
Dubowitz H, Lane WG. Abused and Neglected Children. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, Behrman RE, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 37.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Identification of Sexual Abuse. https://www.childwelfare.gov/can/identifying/sex_abuse.cfm. Accessed November 21, 2014.
- Review date:
- December 07, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2008 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.