Sexual Abuse: What Is It And How Do I Reduce My Child’s Risk Of Being A Victim?

by Jessa McClure on June 8, 2012

in Parenting

This is part one in a two part series regarding child sexual abuse.

Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). And 44 percent of those victims are under the age of 18.

lonely young girlEven though there are thousands of reported cases every year, there are probably even more that go unreported because children are scared to tell anyone about the abuse they’ve suffered.

And the unsettling fact about sexual abuse is that it crosses all social and economic boundaries. Because this type of abuse can happen to anyone, it is important to know the signs and how to reduce your child’s risk.

What is considered sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse can be categorized in many different ways, and may not involve touching.

Abuse can include:

  • Fondling
  • Obscene phone calls
  • Exhibitionism
  • Masturbation
  • Intercourse
  • Oral or anal sex
  • Prostitution
  • Pornography
  • Sexually explicit conversation or materials
  • Having the child touch the adult in a sexual way

These acts can be a one-time incident or many acts over a long period of time. It is still considered abuse even if it only happened once.

What are ways to reduce your child’s risk of being abused?

Sexual abuse is usually perpetrated by someone the child knows. So, being aware of the people who come in contact with your child is key. It is also important to make sure the child knows what to do if they are abused.

Talk to your kids about secrets.

Often abusers will tell the child that the abuse is just between them. They may ask the child to promise to keep a secret. Tell your child that it’s okay to not keep a secret, even if they promised.

Let your child know that if someone’s making them feel uncomfortable, it’s not okay.

Sometimes children think that if they tell an adult “no,” that they will get in trouble. Reassure your child that you will not be angry with them if they say “no” to something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Teach children that some parts of the body are private.

Tell your child that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, or if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell you or a trusted adult.

What are some concerning signs that my child may have been abused?

Physical signs:

  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Bloody, torn or stained clothing
  • Bleeding, bruising or swelling of the genital area
  • Sexually Transmitted infections
  • Pregnancy

Behavioral signs:

  • Reports sexual abuse
  • Inappropriate sexual knowledge
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Nightmares or bed-wetting
  • Large weight changes or major changes in appetite
  • Suicide attempts or self-harming
  • Withdraws from physical contact
  • Runs away
  • Overly protective of siblings

Information courtesy of Scott & White Forensic Nurse, Sheilah Priori, and the McLane Children’s Hospital Scott & White Health Library.

For more information about sexual abuse, contact your Scott & White forensic nurse examiner at 254-935-4051 or 254-724-8296 or visit

  • Pingback: Has Your Chidl Been A Victim Of Sexual Abuse? | McLane Children's Hospital Scott & White Pediatric Blog()

  • anonymous

    I believe there is a child being abused just above me and I have never seen the people that live there. All I know is that the child screams bloody murder at least once a week. How do I know if the child is over reacting or really screaming from pain his mother or father is causing him. The child is about 4 years old from what I was told by a police officer because I had to file a noise complaint from them banging on the floors and waking my daughter up after 12 in the morning.

    • swwebservices

      Thank for you commenting on our article! We recommend for anyone who suspects child abuse that you contact your local law enforcement or CPS immediately.

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