For information please call:
1(800) CHILDREN (VT) | (802) 229-5724

Signs & Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse



Children respond to sexual abuse and other trauma in a variety of ways. Some children may show no signs that the traumatic event has occurred, while other children may show multiple signs. Please note that physical signs are the most definitive, but only the presence of a sexually transmitted infection would be an absolute sign that a child has been abused. Other signs listed below could be symptomatic of any number of problems a child may be having.

Babies and toddlers:
• Genital or urinary tract irritation, injury or infection
• Presence of a sexually transmitted infection
• Frequent, unexplained sore throats or other physical symptoms
• Intense fear reaction to an individual or to people in general
• Nightmares, sleep disturbances
• Phobic behavior
• Extreme upset at diapering or bathing


Preschool children (all of the previous symptoms plus the following):
• Any sudden change in child’s affect or behavior
• Sexualized behaviors – excessive masturbation, repeated attempts to involve others in sexual activity, excessive sexual curiosity and/or knowledge
• Bed-wetting, pants wetting/soiling; other regressive behaviors
• Unusual relationship with an older child/adult (especially if secretive and the older child/adults seeks alone time with child)
• Biting or other aggressive behaviors
• Child’s direct or coded statement indicating sexual harm


School-aged children (all of the previous symptoms plus the following):
• Disturbed peer interactions
• Inability to perform up to potential in school
• Depression or blunted affect
• Mistrust of adults in general
• Poor self-esteem
• Persistent or unusual concern about sexual orientation
• Need to be perfect, persistent need to please or pseudo-maturity


Adolescents (all of the previous symptoms plus the following):
• Self-destructive activity (cutting) or suicidal ideation
• Delinquent behavior and/or running away
• Prostitution, early pregnancy or promiscuity