Signs of Sexual Abuse

For more information on sexual abuse and its effect on children, click here.

Knowing the signs of sexual abuse can help to give a voice to children. Any child is at risk, though it is important to remember that both boys and girls can be sexually abused. Children more vulnerable to sexual abuse are children with disabilities (since the child might not be able to understand what is happening to them is abuse, or might not be able to tell someone), and children who are experiencing neglect or other forms of abuse.

Most children who have been sexually abused were abused by somebody they know, such as a family member, a friend or family friend, a teacher or sports coach. Children can also be sexually abused online by somebody they know. The abuse could be a one-off sexually abusive act, or the perpetrator could build a relationship with the child. 

Signs that a child is being sexually abused may include:

  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Pain, itching, bleeding, bruising, or unusual discharge to the genital area or anus
  • Urinary infections or sexually transmitted infections
  • Persistent sore throats
  • Pregnancy
  • Refusing to change for PE or participate in physical activities
  • Avoids or is afraid of being left alone with people or a specific person
  • Exhibits an inappropriate knowledge of sex for their age
  • Uses inappropriate sexual language
  • Exhibits sexualised behaviour in their play or with other children
  • Bed-wetting
  • Changes in eating habits or developing eating disorders
  • Lack of peer relationships
  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Running away from home
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Anxiety
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide

If a child is being sexually abused online, they may exhibit the following behaviour:

  • Spending more time than usual online, texting, or gaming
  • Seeming distant, upset, or angry after using the internet or texting
  • Being secretive about what they are doing online or who they are talking to
  • Having lots of new phone numbers, texts, or messages

If you are concerned about a child, please contact Front Door For Families on 01273 290400, FrontDoorForFamilies@brighton-hove.gov.uk, or use their Online Referral Form.

If a child is in immediate danger, you should contact the police by calling 999.