• Thursday, November 30, 2023
businessday logo


How to know if your child is being sexually abused

Chinenye Uwanaka

Cases of children being sexually abused have in recent times become more rampant. While economic downturn has forced parents to focus more on making extra income to pay the bills, they leave their children in the hands of caretakers, some of who sexually abuse these children.

According to National Children’s advocacy centre, about one in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. At least 40 percent of those whose victims are under age 12 are teenagers.

It’s not always easy to spot sexual abuse because perpetrators often take steps to hide their actions. Some signs are easier to spot than others.

For instance, some warning signs might be noticed by a caretaker or parent, and are often red flags that the child needs medical attention.

Listen to your instincts. If you notice something that isn’t right or someone in a child’s life is making you uncomfortable—even if you can’t put your finger on why—it’s important to trust your gut, continue to watch for signs of abuse, and talk to the child who may be experiencing abuse in age-appropriate ways.

Children often do not talk about sexual abuse because they think it is their fault or they have been convinced by their abuser that it is normal or a ‘special secret.’

Children may also be bribed or threatened by their abuser, or told they will not be believed.

A child who is being sexually abused may care for their abuser and worry about getting them into trouble.

According to NHS, child sexual abuse covers a range of illegal sexual activities, including: possessing images of child sexual abuse, forcing a child to strip or masturbate, engaging in any kind of sexual activity in front of a child, including watching pornography taking, downloading, viewing or distributing sexual images of children, encouraging a child to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam, not taking measures to protect a child from witnessing sexual activity or images, inappropriate sexual touching of a child, whether clothed or unclothed, and penetrative sex.

Read also: When the protector becomes predator – Tales about child sexual abusers

Both boys and girls can be victims of sexual abuse, but girls are more likely to be abused.

According to National Health Service (NHS), a publicly funded healthcare systems of the United Kingdom, here are some of the signs you may notice:

Changes in behaviour – A child may start being aggressive, withdrawn, clingy, have difficulties sleeping, have regular nightmares or start wetting the bed.

Avoiding the abuser – The child may dislike or seem afraid of a particular person and try to avoid spending time alone with them.

Sexually inappropriate behaviour – Children who have been abused may behave in sexually inappropriate ways or use sexually explicit language.

Physical problems – The child may develop health problems, including soreness in the genital and anal areas or sexually transmitted infections, or they may become pregnant.

Problems at school – An abused child may have difficulty concentrating and learning, and their grades may start to drop.

Giving clues – Children may also drop hints and clues that the abuse is happening without revealing it outright.

Other signs include the following:

* Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics

* Keeping secrets and not talking as much as usual

* Trying to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe

* Change in eating habits

* Decrease in confidence or self-image

* Excessive worry or fearfulness

* Self-harming behaviors

Children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse if they’ve already experienced abuse of some kind. Children who live in families where there is child neglect, for example, are more at risk.

Disabled children are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse, especially if they have difficulties with speech or language.

Children can also be at risk when using the internet. Social media, chat rooms and web forums are all used by child sex abusers to groom potential victims.