- Children may communicate indirectly through their behaviour.
- No one behaviour should be seen as a sign of sexual abuse.
- A pattern of behaviours that continue or escalate or behaviour that seems to be out of the normal range for your child may need to be followed up by talking to your child or speaking to a professional.
- A child may show distress that seems unrelated (out of the blue) to things that have happened around them.
- Regressed behaviour such as thumb sucking, bedwetting, regressed speech or clinginess.
- Fear of being alone or being in the dark.
- Uncharacteristic sadness or anxiety.
- Frequent crying or irritability or anger.
- Withdrawn behaviour
- Preoccupation with sexual matters as reflected in play, drawings, language.
- Inappropriate physical contact with other adults or children.
- Reluctance to be with people or go out.
- Changes in hygiene habits such as not bathing or toileting.
- Lack if interest in activities that previously interested in.
Children will have many different reactions to what has happened, depending on factors such as their relationship to the offender, the length of time the abuse happened and the reactions of those around them. Some of the reactions may seem to conflict with each other and for a time children may be very confused and uncertain as to how they actually feel. Time and patience, ongoing care and reassurance will enable a child to deal with the different emotions they are experiencing.
They may feel:
- Angry at the person who abused them.
- Angry at people they thought should have kept them safe.
- Angry at themselves for not being able to stop it.
- Fearful that people will be angry or disappointed in them.
- Fearful that the person who abused them will harm them or their family for telling.
- Fearful that they will now cause problems for everyone including the offender and family members.
- Fearful that they may be taken away from home.
- Hurt that someone they trusted has done this to them.
- Guilty because they think they did something wrong to cause this to happen.
- Fearful that their friends and peers will find out and think they are bad.
- Guilty that the abuse went on for so long and they said nothing.
- Confused that they may have positive feelings for the person who abused them.
- Uncomfortable with other physical contact as being touched may remind them of the abuse.
- Alone for thinking this has happened to no one else.
- Worthless that something is wrong with them because of what has happened.