It is important for parents, caregivers, and teachers to understand normal child development, including development of sexual behaviors and knowledge. More information regarding age-appropriate sexual behaviors of children is available here.
Dramatic changes in behavior, reverting to behaviors common in younger children, or acting out sexually can be major red flags. Children may suffer from anxiety, changes in eating and sleeping habits, or nightmares. A more extensive list of potential warning signs is available here.
If a child exhibits any physical signs of abuse, it is very important that the child receive an appropriate medical examination. Forensic examinations should be conducted by a forensic nurse examiner or other practitioner who is specially trained in administration of pediatric forensic examinations. For more information about forensic examinations, please contact your local Child Advocacy Center.
Children process trauma differently, and every child victim will have a different response to the abuse. A particular child’s trauma responses may be different from what some people might expect, but this should not be taken to mean that the child is making it up or that the child is “just exaggerating.” All disclosures of abuse should be taken seriously.