Did you know that children from violent homes often display a variety of behavioral characteristics as a result of living in an unpredictable environment? Many of these characteristics are similar to those exhibited by children who have been abused in other ways.
Recent studies show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually abused before they reach the age of 18 years, and that in homes where domestic violence is present, 50% of children living in those homes are abused physically and/or emotionally.
Characteristics of Children Suffering from Sexual Abuse
- Eating disturbances
- Excessive fear or phobias of certain objects, people, places, or activities
- Withdrawal, fantasy, or unusual acting out
- Sexually provocative behavior, i.e., sexually acting out, showing unusual interest in sexual matters
- Fear of restrooms, showers, or baths (common locations of abuse)
- Abrupt personality changes, extreme mood swings, fearfulness, or excessive crying
- Anxieties, especially at naptime
- Uncharacteristic aggression or rebelliousness
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Pain or itching in the genital area
- Torn, stained, or bloody under-clothing
- Frequent urinary infection
- Genital discharge
- Psychosomatic symptoms (frequent headaches or stomach aches)
Responding to Disclosure
If your child tells you that someone has touched him or her in a way that is hurtful or in a way that made him or her feel uncomfortable:
- Remain calm.
Reassure your child by saying,
- I’m glad you told me. You did the right thing. You are very brave, and I’m so proud of your courage.
- It’s not your fault. I’m very sorry this happened to you.
- I’m always here for you. You are safe now.
- Immediately seek help for your child and yourself. Possible resources include:
- Law enforcement personnel
- Child Protective Services
- Supportive friends and relatives
- Professional counselors