Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

By Jennifer Hillman

Upon completion of my undergraduate degree at the age of 22, I was hired by a local hospital to work at their mental health unit for children and adolescents with emotional and mental health issues. The unit was a residential facility so the consumers could be there for months at a time. As you can imagine, there were times I loved the difference I was trying to make in their lives and other times when the stress level and chaos were overwhelming.

My initial placement was on one of the units housing adolescents. But, after just a few months, I was relocated to the STARS unit. The STARS unit was an area for children from two to six years old struggling with issues resulting from sexual abuse.

I can vividly recall my confusion as I watched these itty-bitty children walking around, playing house, playing games, and basically quietly having fun. I was puzzled and asked a nurse why the children were there. She gently explained to me that the signs in young children suffering from sexual abuse can be very subtle. She said the signs would become more visible at bath time and bedtime. She also challenged me to become more familiar with each case; which, would give me more insight into the behaviors that I would see. Unfortunately she was correct and the visible signs were very disturbing.

Our hope at Bailey Bee Believes® is to educate you and your children before any abuse happens. However, we understand the reality that sexual predators are good at what they do and can and do still harm children who are educated to respect and protect their bodies. That is why every adult must also be educated, in general, about all facets of sexual abuse including knowing what signs they may see in a child if they have been sexually abused.

Some indicators of sexual abuse include:

  1. Regression in behaviors (i.e. potty trained child starts wetting the bed and having multiple accidents throughout the day, regression in speech/language development, playing with and/or smearing feces on themselves and/or wall, a child with little tantrums starts to have multiple fits, falling grades, run-away behavior, etc.)
  2. Frightened beyond normal of certain people, bath time, bedtime, restroom time, school, etc.
  3. A child who plays with toys/dolls/other children in a sexual way or uses inappropriate sexual language.
  4. A child who starts to draw scary and dark pictures.
  5. Emotional distress; including anxiety, panic attacks, perfectionism, nightmares, depression.
  6. Self-harm; including cutting, alcohol and drug use
  7. Harming others; including bullying, hurting animals, and setting fires

Even if you “just” suspect abuse, it is a law to report it to:  1-800-252-5400 or 911

Please comment below if you have any questions.

Jennifer Hillman is a licensed speech-language pathologist, producer of the award-winning educational DVD, “The Five B’s”, mother of two and an active advocate and speaker for sexual abuse prevention education in the home, churches and in schools.

For more information on this topic and Bailey Bee Believes® award-winning educational DVD on empowering children about body safety to prevent sexual abuse, go to