Warning Signs

Warning signs are not always obvious, but they are often there when a child is being sexually abused. Learn the signs and pay close attention to a child that exhibits some of these signs.  It is important to keep in mind that some children who are being sexually abused do not show any signs at all.

  • Physical Signs
    1. redness, rashes, or swelling in the genital area
    2. urinary tract infections
    3. chronic stomach pain or headaches
  • Sexual behavior and language that is not age-appropriate
  • Emotional or Behavioral Signs
    • “Too perfect” behavior
    • Rebellion
    • Withdrawal
    • Unexplained anger

What to do when a child discloses sexual abuse

  • Don’t overreact
  1. It is important to stay calm when a child discloses abuse, because when you react with anger or disbelief, the child may shut down or change their story.  They may feel guilty for causing your reaction, and the chance of them disclosing again decreases significantly.
  • Offer support
  1. Believe the child and make sure the child knows it
  2. Thank the child for disclosing and praise them for their courage
  3. Keep the child talking but don’t ask leading questions. Ask open ended questions such as “Tell me more” or “What happened next.”
  4. Assure the child that it is your responsibility to keep them safe and that you will do all you can.  Be careful not to make any promises that you can’t keep
  • Report and take action
  1. EVERYONE in the state of Nebraska is mandated to report child abuse.  If a child discloses abuse to you or if you suspect child abuse, call the Nebraska CPS Program at 1-800-652-1999 or ANY Law Enforcement Agency at 9-1-1.
  2. If you need support or have questions about handling child sexual abuse, contact any of the advocates at Bright Horizons at 1-877-379-3798 or refer to the Community Resources Sheet by clicking here.


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