It’s Devastating

Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

The trauma of sexual abuse on a child can have can have a devastating impact. While everyone’s reaction is unique, trauma can change the way the victim feels about themselves, how they interact with others, and even how they experience the world around them. Trauma is the forced reorganization of the brain. That is, it can actually change the hardwiring of the brain.

Physical signs of sexual abuse are less common in children. However, if you observe any of the following symptoms, take your child to the doctor immediately.

  • Pain, discoloration, bruising, bleeding, or scabs around the mouth, genital, or anus
  • Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training
  • Persistent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements
  • Chronic stomach pain

Some kids don’t show noticeable signs of trauma; however, here are some common ways trauma from sexual abuse or assault might show up in young people:

  • Regression to behaviors that had been outgrown (bedwetting, separation anxiety)
  • Trying to be perfect or overly compliant
  • Overall change in mood (sadness, anxiety, anger, aggression)
  • Change in attitude towards school, sports, or other activities
  • Fear of certain people or places; running away
  • Knowledge of or interest in sexual activity beyond what is developmentally expected
  • Change in eating habits (loss of appetite, gagging)
  • Trouble sleeping (nightmares or night terrors)

Lifelong Impact of Trauma

But it’s not just brain and behavior that can be affected. Trauma can actually change the body’s DNA. Studies have shown a strong correlation between child abuse and other adverse child experiences and negative, long-term personal health outcomes.

  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Suicidality

(source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

Network of Hope

Jacob’s Story.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I was going to bury it deep inside me and keep it a secret until I was buried. It all started—”it,” being my disclosure—when my parents got back from parent-teacher conferences. They were really mad. Read more…