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Signs of Sexual Abuse

How do I know if someone is likely to abuse my child?

There is no easy answer to this question. but you should be alert to anyone who pays an unusual amount of attention to your child, for example:

  • giving your child gifts, toys or favours

  • offering to take your child on trips, outings and holidays

  • seeking opportunities to be alone with your child.

  • Always carry out a careful check on anyone who is to have unsupervised contact with your child. Find out as much as you can about babysitters and those you ask or those who offer to look after your child.

Ask clubs and other groups about what checks are made on staff and volunteers and about their policies for protecting children.

Don’t leave your child with anyone you feel uncomfortable about. Don’t use baby sitters that you do not know very well.  Some employers, such as schools or youth clubs, carry out checks on people who apply for jobs involving unsupervised contact with children. These checks will tell an employer if someone has a criminal conviction that makes them inappropriate to work with children, but many people who sexually abuse children have not been identified or convicted.

It is important that parents and guardians look out for signs of worrying behaviour from any adult or teenager looking after their child.

How will I know if my child is being abused? 

When abuse is discovered, parents often say there were no obvious signs to make them suspect that their child was being sexually abused, even when the abuser was their partner.


However, sometimes a child who is being abused will show the following types of behaviour.

  • He or she may:

  • start to avoid being alone with a particular family member

  • show unexpected fear of an adult or be reluctant to socialise with them

  • try to tell you about the abuse indirectly, through hints or clues. For example, they may talk about being asked to keep a secret or ask anxious questions about the family being broken up or daddy being taken away

  • describe behaviour by an adult that suggests your child is being groomed for future abuse

  • start to behave aggressively, or to have sleep problems or to wet the bed

  • refuse to attend school or suddenly lose concentration and start performing badly at school

  • display sexually inappropriate behaviour, including use of sexual language and sexual information which you would not expect them to know

  • appear depressed, withdrawn or complain about physical ailments that don’t have a medical explanation

  • have physical symptoms to suggest sexual abuse - these can include anal or vaginal soreness or an unusual discharge.

However, the above behaviour does not necessarily mean that your child is being abused. There may be other explanations.  If you are worried, talk to your child.

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