Parents! Do you know if your child is being sexually abused? Here, find five warning signs of child sexual abuse you should not ignore.
Olayemi was only nine when her maternal uncle started to abuse her. Because her mother, who worked hours as an auxiliary nurse in a private hospital, and her father, who was the principal of a school outside Lagos, were away a lot, she often found herself alone with the uncle.
Fetching her and her younger brother, who was four at the time, from school at the end of each day was this same uncle. On some days, he would come into the room she shared with her brother when the latter was outside playing. On other days, he would lure her into his room and have his way with her. Each day was excruciating torture for her and she dreaded going home after school.
Yet, she couldn’t tell anyone, afraid that her abuser would take out his threat to harm her or her younger brother. Her sudden fear of the dark, her quietness and fear of being alone with him were written off by her parents as prepubescent signs. But they could not be more wrong. The abuse continued for five more years when the uncle stopped living with them.
Olayemi is one of the many victims of child sexual abuse in Lagos and across cities in Nigeria. There is such a thing as child sexual abuse and many children are experiencing it.
Would you recognise the signs if your child was being sexually abused? Here, find five signs of sexual abuse to look out for in your child.
1. Trauma to the genital area
Forceful penetration causes bleeding, bruising and other forms of trauma to the genital area. These are signs you might notice if your child is abused via penetration. Pay attention to your child’s body during bath hours. If you find something, anything at all, that is suspicious on your child’s body, not necessarily in the genital area, ask questions. Your child might not want to speak up about the abuse, but you can tell if something is wrong from their response or the manner in which they respond. Or take the child to a doctor for a proper examination.
2. Avoiding certain adults
Children who are sexually abused try to avoid their abusers. If your child makes it obvious that they do not want to be around a particular adult, even family, you should become suspicious. Throwing tantrums, becoming silent and being fearful around an adult could be signs that your child is being sexually abused by this person.
3. Nightmares and fear of the dark
Nightmares and fear of the dark or of being alone are classic signs of child sexual abuse. If your child suddenly starts showing these signs, you should consider the fact that your child might be a victim of sexual abuse. Your child's persistent nightmares or fear of being alone might be cause for concern and you should not ignore it.
4. Sudden behavioural changes
Sexual abuse might be the reason why your once talkative, boisterous child has suddenly become quiet and withdrawn or your once well-behaved child starts to lash out and throw tantrums. Do not leave anything to chance or shrug off suspicions if you notice sudden changes in your child's behaviour.
5. Returning to old habits
Your child might be a victim of sexual abuse if they suddenly return to old habits, like bed wetting and thumb sucking, long after outgrowing them. Pay attention to your child's behaviour and habits. What can be shrugged off as normal might actually be a child's reaction to abuse.