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5 warning signs that a child has experienced sexual abuse

As parents, we want to do everything in our power to protect our children from the dangers in today's society. But sometimes, it can be very difficult to see when something is even wrong - let alone find out what happened to cause it.

This is especially true when children experience sexual harassment or abuse. Today's youth typically hide their emotions and the truth from adults, but as a parent there are a number of signs that may give you a hint that your child has been hurt.

1. Nightmares and changes in mood

One of the first signs you may notice is that your child is acting drastically different in their everyday life. They may seem distant, distracted, or show signs of depression and anxiety. This could be coupled with nightmares and strange dreams, or even substance abuse if they are teenagers.

2. Changes in self-image

Children who have been assaulted begin to view their bodies differently. They may view themselves as repulsive or dirty, refusing to take their clothes off at the beach or by the pool. Older children may exhibit more childlike behavior, and younger children may begin displaying more adult, sexualized behavior.

3. Sudden change in eating habits

A change in eating habits is often a sign that something is wrong - physically, mentally or emotionally. If your child is refusing to eat, has a loss of appetite or is having trouble swallowing, it may be because of an abusive incident.

4. Signs of someone new in their life

Children make new friends all the time. But if they mention a new older friend, or if you notice they have received gifts, money or toys from an unknown person, you may want to investigate to learn more about this new friend.

5. Signs of physical trauma

This is the most obvious sign that something has happened to your child, but it is also the rarest one. Sexual trauma may result in pain and other physical ailments that you may notice on your child. Your child may also resort to self-harm, which could present other forms of physical trauma.

Just because a child exhibits these behaviors does not mean they have been sexually abused.

Children have similar ways of coping with all sorts of trauma and stress in their lives. You may notice some of the above behaviors during a divorce, when a family member has died, if they are being bullied at school or simply during puberty.

The important thing is to talk with your child and learn more about what they're experiencing, especially when you notice a sudden mix of warning signs. By being proactive, you can take action to protect them and ease any pain they may be feeling sooner rather than later.

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