Signs of Sexual Trauma in Children: Red Flags

Statistics about sexual assault of children from the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization are shocking. According to RAINN:

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.

  • 29% are age 12-17;
  • 44% are under age 18;
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault;
  • 7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused;
  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

Here are some changes in behavior parents should be concerned about. These red flags can be subtle and gradual:

  • Sudden fears of certain places or people;
  • Sudden and frequent anxiety (being clingy, having nightmares);
  • Sudden depression (such as withdrawal, low self-esteem, thinking about or frequently crying);
  • Extreme anger ( tantrums, aggression, or acting out against authority figures such as teachers);
  • Sudden isolation from peers or family members;
  • Skipping school;
  • Anger outbursts;
  • Regression not consist with their biological age, such as bed wetting;
  • Fear of being touched;
  • Changes in Grades;
  • Use of substances;
  • Sexual or violent acting out with other children, pets or toys;
  • Running away;
  • Self-mutilation;
  • Talking about suicide;
  • Excessive play with their own private body parts not consistent with healthy sexual development;
  • Drawing or “play-acting” violent or sexual scenes.


Some physical signs, which may or may not accompany behavioral changes include:

  • Changes in eating habits;
  • Changes in sleep habits;
  • Frequent stomachaches;
  • Changes in appearance;
  • Physical pain or itching in the genital area;
  • Underwear stained with blood or other discharge;
  • Rectal bleeding;
  • Problems walking or sitting.

Please talk to your doctor or the counselor at your child’s school if your child shows any or many  of these signs. If you suspect sexual abuse, contact law enforcement: do not question or interrogate your child. Specially trained professionals with law enforcement are qualified to interview your child and gather evidence necessary to prosecute the perpetrator or perpetrators.

The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt exclusively represents victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault. We stand ready to help you with your legal needs. If you were sexually assaulted or sexually abused, our law firm can help explain your legal remedies.  For almost twenty years, we have represented victims of sex crimes in civil cases against institutions, including colleges and universities, religious organizations, such as the Catholic church, Baptist church, Greek Orthodox church, Episcopal Church, and Presbyterian church among others. We have also represented victims of sexual abuse in schools,  youth sports organizations,  youth camps, daycares, scouting and the like. You may confidentially contact our office at 214-503-7300 or through our website :

You can also become a fan of our firm on Facebook. We post articles and other information helpful to survivors, including current media on abuse cases nationwide, wellness, self-care and other  mental health news.

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