As parents and youth serving professionals, it’s important to understand the signs of child sexual abuse. They’re not always readily apparent, but they’re often present. There are several emotional and behavioral issues children immediately face as a result of abuse:
Emotional and Mental Health Problems
These are often the first indicators of child sexual abuse. Examples include behavioral problems, physical aggression, non-compliance, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Victims may also display “too perfect” or overly compliant behavior.
Children who have been sexually abused have over three times as many sexual behavior problems as non-victimized children. Some of the indicators include age-inappropriate sexual behaviors or language, advanced knowledge of sexual behaviors, and sexual promiscuity.
Many academic problems can arise due to child sexual abuse, including high absenteeism, change in attitude towards school, lower performance on tests, and lack of interest in friends, sports, and other activities.
Substance abuse is one of the most common consequences of child sexual abuse. Alcohol use and dependence is 2 to 3 times more likely among adolescent sexual abuse victims, and drug abuse is even more common than alcohol abuse for abused adolescents.
Delinquency and Criminal Behaviors
Both substance abuse problems and child sexual abuse often lead to delinquency and criminal activities. Sexually abused adolescents have a higher risk for delinquency, are more likely to be arrested, and are nearly twice as likely to run away from home as their non-abused peers.
The risk of teen pregnancy is also much higher for child sexual abuse victims. Nearly half of pregnant teens report a history of child sexual abuse, and males who are sexually abused are more likely than their non-abused peers to impregnate a teen.
The immediate consequences of child sexual abuse can be as serious and life-altering as the abuse itself. However, by shining a light on abuse and taking steps towards prevention, we can help save children and teens from experiencing the negative consequences and traumas of abuse.