It is a very frightening feeling to suspect that a child you know is being abused. Identifying this fact among children and babies can be difficult, mainly due to the inability of the little ones to communicate the situation, either because they do not speak or because of the discomfort of what happened. As they are active and developing, distinguishing what is normal and what indicates abuse can be very challenging for them. Behavioral changes and certain emotional cues, however, can be signs of abuse; physicists are not always present. When you suspect that a child is being sexually assaulted, act by contacting the authorities.
Method 1 of 3: Looking for Changes in Behavior
Step 1. Check if the child's behavior has suddenly changed
It is normal that when they are abused, they start acting differently; those who are normally active and talkative end up being quiet, introverted, while those who are calmer and gentler may become aggressive. Generally, they all end up with more anxious behavior.
- For example, you may notice that the neighbor's child, who was active and full of life, now appears to be afraid to leave the house and play with your child.
- Even babies can behave differently, constantly teasing and whining for no apparent reason.
Step 2. Be aware of behaviors that the child has already left behind but has recently re-entered
Sexual assaults can make them feel insecure and start acting like in the past. For example: the child already knows how to go to the bathroom and did not wet the bed anymore, however, it started to soak it again, while another child who had stopped sucking her thumb is doing it again.
Step 3. The behavior of submitting to everything or demanding too much is also a warning sign
Normally, babies and toddlers like to please adults and test limits. However, when abused, they can go to the extreme, obeying all orders or challenging and wanting many things.
For example, you are watching a little one in day care, and you notice that he gets irritated in all the activities whenever an adult asks him to do something. It's a reason that can cause concern
Step 4. Check if the child has changed eating habits
It is normal for toddlers and toddlers to want only some foods and refuse to eat others. However, when you notice that one of them has abruptly changed the way she eats for no clear reason (such as an illness or “growth peak”), something may have happened. In certain cases, she also experiences weight gain or loss in a short period of time.
If you are taking care of a child who has been abused, check to see if he has lost weight or is not interested in eating
Step 5. Sleep problems may also arise
Babies who used to sleep well start waking up at night, while toddlers will talk about nightmares. If you haven't observed her sleeping, other signs may appear, such as excessive tiredness or weakness due to lack of sleep.
Step 6. Watch for changes in school or daycare
When abused, the little ones can be absent a lot from the day care center for no reason (such as vacations or illness), besides showing changes in their behavior when they are in such places.
- When the child goes back to preschool or day care after a long time, ask the parent or caregiver why he/she has been away for so long. Notice if the person hesitates to talk about it, or seems to lie (“We took a trip to visit their grandparents across the country,” but you know they live in the same city).
- Confronting a parent or caregiver can be tricky, but at least ask the reason for the absence, for their sake.
Method 2 of 3: Observing Emotional Signs
Step 1. Check if the child appears to be afraid of a caregiver or of staying at home
She will sometimes whine on her way home, as that is where she was abused, avoiding parents or a caregiver. In addition, she may cling to a teacher at the kindergarten on her way home (or vice versa).
- Having a little sadness and anxiety when separating from someone he cares about is normal among very young children and does not necessarily indicate that there has been sexual assault.
- Remember that even when you are afraid of a caregiver, it doesn't always mean that the caregiver has abused a child. If there is a problem, someone else in the house could be to blame.
- If you are babysitting or responsible for the child at the daycare, talk to him and try to understand if he is afraid to go home. Thinking about a possible abuse case will also be psychologically difficult for you, but don't forget that you're trying to help him in one way or another.
Step 2. Identify how obsessed the child is with trauma
She is likely to misunderstand what happened when she was abused; consequently, the young person may talk a lot about violent or traumatic events, as well as situations in which they would hurt others or themselves.
For example, you're babysitting a little girl who always says she's afraid of getting burned by her mom or dad's hands. It's a sign that causes concern
Step 3. Be wary of realizing that the child has very early sexual knowledge
Sexual development is a long process, and certain stages develop already in childhood. However, when a child demonstrates that they have advanced knowledge of sex and speaks frequently about the subject, it is a clear indication that they have already been sexually abused.
- However, be aware that curiosity about some sexual aspects (such as the difference between boys and girls) is natural at certain stages;
- When you notice that one of your child's friends explicitly simulates sexual acts, the fact should be investigated, as it is an unusual behavior.
Method 3 of 3: Analyzing Physical Signs
Step 1. Identify unusual injuries
Babies and toddlers love to explore the world, and it's totally normal that they end up getting scratches or bruises on their “adventures”. However, when you notice that they have several more serious wounds or bruises (which do not look like normal bumps or scrapes), there is a possibility that she is being abused.
- Blow marks, bites, scratches or burns that appear to have been made with an object are some of the possible signs;
- Unusual bruises in babies and toddlers may also be evident, such as black eyes;
- Sometimes, it will be possible to notice bruises or lesions that are already disappearing, especially if the young person did not go to school or day care for a few days;
- When asking a parent or caregiver about the injuries, the individual may make a clearly false or improbable excuse, such as "John got burned because he wanted to make a fire in the backyard!";
- Although physical discipline (such as "slapping" on children and adolescents) was not considered abuse, in the past, this changed with the institution of the Menino Bernardo Law, which makes aggressors subject to punishment and measures (such as removing custody of the son).
Step 2. Keep an eye on the little one's overall appearance
Young children who are abused can also be neglected, for example, they have dirty or tight-looking clothes, or unkempt hair and an unpleasant odor.
Step 3. Observe if the child has difficulty walking or sitting
This can occur after sexual abuse, which leaves physical trauma as a result; sometimes, the little ones will not be willing to tell that they were sexually assaulted. However, check for other signs, such as difficulty walking or sitting correctly.
Step 4. Talk to a pediatrician immediately if you suspect abuse
In addition to helping with the treatment of injuries caused by abuse, a pediatrician can help you contact the police and guardianship council to begin an investigation. They can refer the child to a hospital for an initial diagnosis, tests and treatment. Your pediatrician can also refer you to a special clinic or a child psychologist so that your child can learn to deal with their emotions better.
Take any available evidence of abuse to authorities, such as photos of injuries, records of absenteeism, or statements from the child
Step 5. Keep the child away from the suspected abuser
Keep the child as far away from the abuser as possible until the authorities start the investigation. Do not threaten the abuser or try to take matters into your own hands.
- Abuse occurs to all types of children. Anyone can suffer this violence, regardless of their appearance, whether they are rich or poor, or whether they are from another state or country.
- Children are constantly developing, so it is normal to see changes in their behavior and emotions in their daily lives. When you see a pattern and notice that this change is settling on it, as well as evidence of an imminent threat, you will need to act.