How to Spot Child Sexual Abuse

Signs in the Child

Remember that none of these signs are immediate tells that a child is definitely being abused, but they can be warning signs to pay closer attention, and if you begin to see a pattern or to see multiple things from this list, it could be time to try and raise a concern to a proper authority who is in the child’s life but is not likely to be close to or the one perpetuating the abuse (a school counselor perhaps). 


Emotional signs are much more common than physical signs of abuse when it comes to CSA.

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleep disturbances/night terrors
  • Unusual fear or resistance to be around certain people/go certain places.
  • Changes in mood including anger and aggression
  • Unexplained/frequent health problems like headaches or stomach aches
  • Poor self esteem – avoidance of relationships
  • Self mutilation, thinking of self as dirty or bad
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Regression to things like bedwetting or thumb sucking
  • Abnormally advanced sexual language and/or behaviors
  • Too ‘perfect’/compliant
  • Changes in eating habits


Physical signs of abuse are much less common when it comes to CSA but still can and do happen. 

  • Persistent/recurring pain with urination/bowel movements 
  • Wetting themselves
  • STDs
  • Chronic stomach pain
  • Headaches
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding

Red Flags in Adults

How to Identify Someone who is Hurting/Grooming a Child

Child Grooming is a deliberate action and process where offenders will gradually create a relationship with a child. This relationship will sometimes start tame but will escalate to a sexual relationship in secrecy. From the outside the groomer may look like a friend to the child – potentially even a mentor, meanwhile they’re abusing the child.

  • Does not listen or respect boundaries when they are told “no”
  • They try to be the child’s friend rather than fill an adult role in the child’s life
  • Engage in touching that the child or the child’s parents have indicated is unwanted
  • Doesn’t seem to have age appropriate relationships in their life
  • Talks with children about their personal problems or relationships
  • Spends time alone with children outside of their role in that child’s life/makes excuses to be alone with children
  • Expresses unusual interest in child’s sexual development (making comments on sexual development or sexualizing normal behaviors)
  • Gift giving without reason
  • Spends a lot of time with children
  • Restricts a child’s access to other adults
Last updated on October 27, 2023
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