Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

There is a big difference between signs of sexual abuse and developmentally appropriate sexual-exploration behaviors.

Unusual Sexual Behaviors

Sexual behavior that’s outside the bounds of normal developmental play:

  • Is clearly beyond the child’s developmental stage
  • Involves threats, force, or aggression
  • Involves children of widely different ages or abilities
  • Provokes strong emotional reactions in the child

Behavioral Indicators of Sexual Abuse

Behavioral Indicators of Sexual Abuse in Younger Children

  • Sadness, crying, anxiousness
  • Short attention span
  • Change or loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances, nightmares
  • Becoming excessively dependent
  • A fear of home or a specific place, excessive fear of men or women, lacks trust in others
  • Age-inappropriate sexual play with toys, self, others, sexually explicit drawings
  • Bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge
  • Reverting to bedwetting/accidents
  • Dramatic behavioral changes, sudden non-participation in activities
  • Poor peer relationships, self-image
  • Overall poor self-care
  • Feeling threatened by physical contact or closeness
  • Coercing or forcing sexual contact with others

Behavioral Indicators of Sexual Behavior in Older Children

  • Sudden lack of interest in friends or activities
  • Fearful or startled response to touching
  • Overwhelming interest in sexual activities
  • Hostility toward authority figures
  • Need for constant companionship
  • Regressive communication patterns
  • Academic difficulties
  • Truancy and/or running away from home
  • Recurrent physical complaints that are without physiological basis
  • Lacks trust in others
  • Unable to “have fun” with others
  • Self-mutilation/”cutting”
  • Suicide attempts
  • Drug/alcohol misuse
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Sex with multiple partners

Emotional Indicators of Sexual Abuse

  • Increased separation anxiety
  • Fluctuations from shy and withdrawn to unusually aggressive
  • Emergence of intense, specific new fears
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling helpless or powerless
  • Grief, numbness, guilt, vulnerability


Sexual Development and Behavior in Children. (2009, April 1). Retrieved April 1, 2015, from

An Overview of Healthy Childhood Sexual Development (2013). Retrieved April 1,2015 from http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/saam_2013_an-overview-of-healthy-childhood-sexual-development.pdf



are the first line of defense in protecting your child from sexual abuse

Report Suspected Abuse