Indicators of Sexual Abuse in Adults
There are many reactions that survivors of rape and sexual assault can experience. For traumatic events in general, it is important to realize that there is not one “standard” pattern of reaction to the extreme stress of traumatic experiences. Some people respond immediately, while others have delayed reactions—sometimes months or even years later. Some have adverse effects for a long period of time, while others recover rather quickly. Reactions can change over time. Some who have suffered from trauma are energized initially by the event to help them with the challenge of coping, only to later become discouraged or depressed. 2 The impact of sexual abuse varies from person to person and can occur on several levels—physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Survivors may experience some of the following responses: 3
Recognizing Sexual Abuse
Warning Signs in Children of Possible Sexual Abuse
Any one sign does not mean that a child was sexually abused, but the presence of several suggests that you begin asking questions and consider seeking help.
Behavior you may see in a child or adolescent:
Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation
Seems distracted or distant at odd times
Has a sudden change in eating habits
Refuses to eat
Loses or drastically increases appetite
Has trouble swallowing
Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity, or withdrawal
Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places
Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
Writes, draws, plays, or dreams of sexual or frightening images
Talks about a new older friend
Suddenly has money, toys, or other gifts without reason
Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty, or bad
Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language, and knowledge
All of the warning signs listed above are general indicators of sexual abuse in children. Many children do not actually disclose what happened; it is up to attentive adults to recognize hints. However, if you suspect a child has been abused by seeing these indications, or if he or she hints at abuse or outright discloses sexual abuse, seek help.
Behavior more typically found in adolescents (teens):
We at Peaceful Hearts want you to always know that you are not alone. In the case of an emergency, call 911.
National Child Abuse Hotline
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1.800.273.8255 www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
The following behaviors could be cause for concern:
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