Child sexual abuse: how can you spot the signs?

Child sexual abuse: how can you spot the signs?

Posted on Feb 02, 2016

Child sexual abuse: how can you spot the signs?



Child abuse


There are four types of abuse; neglect, emotional, physical and sexual. It’s important to know the different types so you can spot the signs and report accurately to your safeguarding lead/social services if you suspect that child abuse happening.


Sexual abuse

5% of children in the UK have been sexually abused; so that's at least one in every school class. Unfortunately, most sexual abuse cases are not reported, or even detected, so statistics don’t show what a huge problem it is.

Child sexual abuse includes:

  • Assault by penetration
  • Masturbation
  • Kissing
  • Rubbing
  • Touching outside of clothing
  • Children looking at sexual images or activities
  • Using children in the production of sexual images
  • Encouraging children to behave in sexual inappropriate way
  • Grooming children in preparation for abuse

It is important to remember child sexual abuse is committed by women, teenagers and other children, it’s not just men. There is no typical sexual abuser.


Possible signs of sexual abuse

It’s unlikely you would be aware of symptoms such as soreness to the genital area or sexually transmitted infections but you might become aware of child pregnancy or other indicators such as:

  • A child avoiding another person
  • A child avoiding being alone with a family member of friend
  • A child being frightened of another person
  • Sexual behaviour/knowledge that’s inappropriate for their age

Remember, there are other types of abuse - emotional, physical and sexual abuse. We will be looking at the signs of these types of abuse in the next couple of weeks.


Don’t forget! The common behaviours of a child who has been/is being abused are:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Self-harming
  • Thoughts about suicide
  • Obsessive behaviours
  • Aggression
  • Soiled clothing
  • Eating disorders or changes in eating habits
  • Sleeping trouble, nightmares or bed-wetting
  • Risky behaviour, including drugs and alcohol
  • Absence from school
  • Withdrawal or clinginess


Action to take if you suspect child abuse

If you suspect child abuse, don’t ignore it. Report it to your manager/safeguarding lead immediately. If your organisation doesn't have one, consider contacting children’s social care or the police on 999.


At flick, we offer affordable child protection training that covers what child abuse is, how it affects child development, what to do and how to react to a disclosure, how to report concerns and what your legal duty and responsibility are as someone who works with children and young people.


Our level 2 accredited child protection course covers key points from:


  • Working together to safeguard children (2015) in England
  • Safeguarding children: working together under the Children Act 2004 in Wales
  • National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (2014)
  • Co-operating to safeguarding children (2003) in Northern Ireland
  • Keeping Safe in Education (2019).



Free signs of child abuse - staff posters



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