3 Major Signs of Sexual Abuse – All You Need To Know

Sexual abuse is very frequent globally, and astonishingly children below the age of 5 are the most vulnerable. The risk factor with smaller children is identifying the signs of sexual abuse as they are too small to understand what happened.

A study by WHO indicates that 1 in every 3 women has been subjected to either physical or sexual abuse globally at least once in their life. In one-third of the countries, 5% of young women reported experiences of sexual violence during their childhood.

Non-consensual physical abuse and the mental harassment of victims by sharing obscene images also count as sexual abuse.

Trauma 1has a long-lasting effect on the mental health of the person. If you observe such signs on anyone, the chances are that they are experiencing sexual abuse.

Sexual assault, whether done on a woman or a small child, destroys both. While adults might cope better with this, children are alien to what has happened to them, which can lead to post-traumatic stress. So, parents should always keep an eye out to identify sexual abuse in a child.

Warning Signs Of Sexual Abuse

Wondering about warning signs of sexual abuse in your child? Then check the following points and make sure that your child is safe and healthy.

Physical Signs Of Sexual Abuse

  • Bruises in genitals, face, neck, chest, thighs, and back of legs.
  • Big red marks of rope or belt anywhere on the body.
  • Burn marks.
  • Bleeding or blood in underwear.
  • Urinary tract infection (a sexually transmitted infection is different from a normal bacterial infection).
  • Persistent or recurring shooting pain during urination.
  • Diarrhea problems.
  • Difficulty in walking due to excess pain.

Emotional Signs Of Sexual Abuse

Domestic and family violence. Little girl asking for help.
Photo by karich from Depositphotos
  • Low confidence.
  • Loss of interest in playing and going out or socializing.
  • Self-harming.
  • Dependent on adults for menial activities.
  • Traumatized.

The above are signs that a child is sexually abused, although some could be the normal behavior of a developing child. Therefore, these indicators should be considered within the context of child behavior.

Always keep an eye out for unusual behavior. Kids can’t tell exactly what happened, so any unusual behavior should be treated with suspicion and not ignored. Pay attention to signs of sexual abuse to identify if your child is sexually abused.

Identify the Perpetrator

Today, it can be difficult to identify perpetrators as sexual predators could be hiding in plain sight. Most often, they are around us, as it could be someone you grew up with, someone who the family trusts.

They could be the babysitter, the teacher, or a frequently visiting relative. When it comes to sexual abusers, the very uncertainty of the situation calls for measures to protect children.

One has to keep their eye open and save their child from abusers. Look out for the signs of sexual abuse. Your knowledge could prevent people who sexually abuse children.

Signs Of An Adult Sexual Offender

There are several red flags you can notice in a person that could confirm if they are a sexual abuser.

  • Making an unusual relationship with your child.
  • Taking the child out more often.
  • Fulfilling their every demand.
  • Playing with your child in your absence.
  • Engaging in adult conversations with children.
  • Sexualizing normal behavior and complementing your child about their sexual development.
  • Persuading your child to keep secrets.
  • Making excuses to be alone with your child.
  • Offering to dress them up.
  • Persistent on playing with your child.
  • Touching them inappropriately and making it obvious

Listen to your child if he/she is trying to talk about someone making him uncomfortable. If you suspect child sexual abuse, then look for signs of sexual abuse and take the necessary steps. It can be very challenging to call them out but protecting your child is of the utmost importance.

  • Talk to someone who can help.
  • Ask your child not to meet and get near the person,
  • Face the perpetrator, and inform others so that they can be careful. This could also help others come up.
  • If he doesn’t understand, report him.

Who Are at Risk?

While both girls and boys are at equal risk of sexual abuse, children affected by certain circumstances tend to be easier prey. In several situations, they are more vulnerable, and these are explored below. 

  • Children who are neglected by their parents or caretakers.
  • Child in a daycare or with a babysitter. Doing full research is of utmost importance before employing a nanny or choosing a daycare.
  • Emotionally shunned children who never talk to their parents about their feelings.
  • Children who grow up in the absence of any physical activity or family outings.
  • Divorce or separation of parents can make children more vulnerable as they often seek more emotional attachment and attention.
  • Children and adults who spend too much time online in unsafe spaces are likely to be trapped in abusive situations.
  • Those with disabilities are also at a greater risk.
  • Homeless children are always taken advantage of through promises of food, shelter, and security.

The best action we can take is to spend time with children and give them adequate attention. If there are any signs of sexual abuse, take necessary action and keep that adult away from your child.

Dramatic grunge portrait of a girl crying with her hands on her face isolated on a black background
Photo by kmiragaya from Depositphotos

Sexual violence, sexual assault, and rape are common among adults as well. Many cases of sexual abuse in women go unreported due to the fear of society and people.

Types Of Sexual Abuse In Adults

Sexual assault is a common term for all kinds of sex-related crimes. Some of the common sex crimes in an adult are-

Groping And Touching

Females are the constant victims of groping and inappropriate touching in public places, and almost every woman experiences this. The suddenness of the incident freezes the person, taking away the control and confidence to call out the perpetrator.

No-Contact Sexual Abuse

The common legal definition defines skin-to-skin contact in rape or assault as a crime. However, some crimes don’t involve contact and still produce psychological 2impact equivalent to sexual abuse.

Sending obscene pictures, sharing her edited nude pictures, revenge porn, indecent remarks on a girl’s body or clothes, and cat-calling are all incidences of sexual abuse.


Depressed woman sitting on ground, female in depression sadness, Physically abused woman, The concept of sexual harassment against women and rape. human rights abuses. international women's day.
Photo by Tinnakorn from Depositphotos

A forcible sexual activity on a person without his/her consent is termed rape. There are many rape cases reported while the victim is drugged, unconscious, or underage. Forcible sex, even in a long-term relationship or marriage, is considered rape.

Male Victims

Many believe that men never face sexual abuse, but this is not true.

Men do face assault and have been the victims of rape. The belief system is due to society projecting men as strong and unbreakable, due to which men who face this may never report. Also, they don’t get as much peer support as a woman, which can discourage them.

This apathy from society makes them reluctant to believe they were the victim. Society can barely digest 3when charges are pressed against a woman, making it difficult for male victims to prove their cases. The irony here is women as victims are also blamed for their character, which triggers the assault.

It is of utmost necessity for us to avoid victim-shaming and look at problems with a non-judgemental, unbiased view to help bring the perpetrator to justice. Abuse is abuse, be it done to a child, a woman, or a man. One should always support the victim and help them get justice.

Reasons Of Under-Reporting

  • Most girls fear that there could be retaliation, and the police can not protect them.
  • Victim shaming is one of the primary reasons why sexual assault crimes go unreported.
  • Some fear people in influential positions.
  • Often, there is resistance from relatives to reporting the crime.
  • Some people believe that proceeding legally or bringing the matter to public or police attention could be a blot on their name.

 How To Approach And Support Victims?

It is very obvious that the person could be in trauma and is not ready to talk, but if you have already identified the signs of sexual abuse, then give them support and time to recover. 

  • Provide your love and support to help them overcome the trauma
  • Make them see that you believe in them and that it’s not their fault.
  • Don’t persuade them if they don’t want to talk. Give them time to get over the trauma.
  • Rape or assault takes away control from the victim and makes them feel like an object. Help them regain control and self-confidence. 
  • Never ask the victim to move on or let it go because the trauma caused by such incidents is irreparable. It has to be walked through. Be there for them.
  • Do not force them to show signs of sexual abuse, identify the perpetrators, or report them to the police. Respect their decision. Give them time to regain the courage and confidence to do it themselves.
  • The carer should also seek help from professionals to be a real help to the victim.

In the end, sexual crime being done on a child, a woman, or a man, causes the same damage to their life. Once you identify the signs of sexual abuse, show empathy and provide support to help them get back to normal life.

Infographic That Explains Therapy Approaches For Sexual Abuse Victims
Icy Health


1. What can be the signs of sexual abuse in an individual?

Unpredictable fluctuations in appetite or sleep, new phobias, especially towards a specific individual or those that possess a given physical trait, persistent or obsessive interest in genitalia, or sexual activity that goes beyond what is normal for one’s age.

2. What are the different stages of sexual abuse?

Children who disclose sexual abuse have passed through stages of denial, reluctance, disclosure, recantation, and reaffirmation. This process has been referred to as a quasi-developmental approach.

3. Which four ways does sexual abuse take?

We use the phrase “sexual violence” to refer to any sexual activity that took place against someone’s will. Rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment fall under this category.

  1. Coimbra, Raul, et al. “European Society of Trauma and Emergency Surgery (ESTES) recommendations for trauma and emergency surgery preparation during times of COVID-19 infection.” European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery 46 (2020): 505-510. ↩︎
  2. Roberts, Steven O., et al. “Racial inequality in psychological research: Trends of the past and recommendations for the future.” Perspectives on psychological science 15.6 (2020): 1295-1309. ↩︎
  3. De Brey, Cristobal, et al. “Digest of Education Statistics 2019. NCES 2021-009.” National Center for Education Statistics (2021). ↩︎

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