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Child Sexual Abuse (Part 1): Signs of sexual abuse: What parents need to know

Pregnant child
Pregnant child

                                                            Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.

                                                                                ---- Herbert Ward

I decided to do a series of articles dealing with the issue of child sexual abuse when I read the Nashville Scene article "In the wake of suspected pedophile Elliot Lash's suicide, his wife tells her story"  After reading this story, it reminded me of some things I witnessed as a child. In that regard, I am writing these articles because I have a daughter and I think it is imperative that parents teach their children the dangers of sexual abuse.

"Sexual abuse occurs by forcing or manipulating a child in a way that allows the sexual offender to touch the child's private parts (which may or may not include penetration), or takes photo's of children without any clothes on, or when an offender exposes him/herself to a child." Parents, it is important that you talk to your children about good touch vs. bad touch. Children need to understand that  it is not okay when someone touches them inappropriately.  Children must also know that they can come to their parents or legal guardians if they experience sexual abuse.  

It is a huge misconception that child molesters and pedophiles are strangers. Statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network found that 90% of child sexual abuse cases are committed by trusted family members and close friends. Reported cases of child sexual abuse in the United States are estimated at 80,000 children each year, according to federal statistics.  In those same cases, it was reported that:
• 1 in 3 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18. (1)
• 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. (1)

If you think your child might have experienced some form of sexual abuse, I have included a list of the signs from and other sources.

Signs of Sexual Abuse
There are various lists of possible physical and behavioral indicators of child sexual abuse, some of which are:
• Waking up during the night sweating, screaming or shaking with nightmares.
• Masturbating excessively.
• Showing unusually aggressive behavior toward family members, friends, toys, and pets.
• Complaining of pain while urinating or having a bowel movement, or exhibiting symptoms of genital infections such as offensive odors, or symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease.
• Having symptoms indicating evidence of physical traumas to the genital or anal area.
• Beginning wetting the bed.
• Experiencing a loss of appetite or other eating problems, including unexplained gagging.
• Showing unusual fear of a certain place or location.
• Developing frequent unexplained health problems.
• Engaging in persistent sexual play with friends, toys or pets.
• Having unexplained periods of panic, which may be flashbacks from the abuse.
• Regressing to behaviors too young for the stage of development they already achieved.
• Initiating sophisticated sexual behaviors.
• Indicating a sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person.
• Engaging in self-mutilations, such as sticking themselves with pins or cutting themselves.
• Withdrawing from previously enjoyable activities, like school or school performance change.
• Asking an unusual amount of questions about human sexuality.
 (By Kathy Smedley, Licensed Professional Counselor, a Licensed Marriage, Family Therapist, and Program Director for the Northeast Texas Children's Advocacy Center.)

Parents, if you get anything from this article, this is the most important factor: if your child(ren)  expresses to you that they have been molested or abused in any way, no matter who the offender is, call the police.

Please feel free to leave feedback on this page or to Tia Lee at


  • Dwayne 5 years ago

    This is the kind of articles the media should report as oppose to what famous person is cheating or engaging into any other sillyiness. Great article!

  • Sheri 5 years ago

    Why do u feel this article is the type that should be put out there more often? The reason I ask is because I was criticized by a few people in regards to "telling my side of the story." I was told that the reporter just wanted to 'sensationalize' the tragedy so people would be interested. I personally do not think that is what he did. I wanted to make other parents out there aware of what s going on out there. And as much as I loved and adored my husband(bc I did not know he was harming my children) That love did not matter when I saw what I did. The love and protection of my children superceeded.

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