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Comprehensive Counseling Services
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Understanding the Symptoms: Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse
Signs and Symptoms You Should Know

Are you concerned that one of your family members or perhaps a friend may be a victim of sexual abuse? Every individual is different, but there are common signs and symptoms that the person of whom you are concerned may exhibit that could be indicative of a problem that needs treatment.

What is sexual abuse?

Both adults and children may be victims of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of a child is any sexual act between an adult and a child or between a child four years older than a younger child. Whereas an adult can easily communicate to our clinician their personal experiences of being sexually abused, it can be difficult to detect when a child is being sexually abused.

What actions are considered sexual abuse? The following are:

  • Fondling, touching, or kissing a child's genital areas
  • Making a child touch an adult's genital areas
  • Penetration, intercourse, incest rape, oral sex or sodomy of children or not-consenting adults
  • Exposing a child to adult sexuality in other forms (showing sex organs to a child, making children observe sexual acts, showing children pornographic material, telling "dirty" stories
  • Privacy violations (such as forcing the child to undress, spying on a child in the bath, shower or bedroom)
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Enticing unknown children to pornographic sites or material on the Internet through chat rooms or other social network sites
  • Luring children thought the Internet to meet for sexual liaisons
  • Human trafficking - child prostitution
  • Using a child in the production of pornography, such as a film or magazine

Some Signs & Symptoms of Sexual Abuse

  • Inappropriate interest in or knowledge of sexual acts
  • Seductiveness
  • Avoidance of things related to genders or rejection of own bodies
  • Nightmares and/or bed wetting
  • Sudden changes in appetite or onset of eating disorders
  • Over compliance or excessive aggression
  • Fear of a particular person or family member
  • Withdrawal, secretiveness or depression
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Self-injury
  • Insertion of toys into genitals
  • "Humping" furniture or dolls
  • Children engaging in self-masturbation
  • Acting out on other children in a sexual way during playtime activities

Sex abusers can be:

  • Parents, siblings, or other relatives
  • Childcare professionals
  • Clergy, teachers, athletic coaches, or others in a position of authority over children
  • Neighbors or fiends
  • Strangers

It is important to remember that regardless of the child's behavior with regards to the sexually abusive behavior, it is the responsibility of the adult or older child/adolescent not to engage in sexual acts with children. Sexual abuse is never the child's fault.

If you have concerns that a child you know may have been sexually abused or is currently being sexually abused please contact your local Child Protective Services Hotline. The Tennessee Central Intake phone number is 1-877-237-0004. Remember: You do not have to prove sexual abuse has occurred to report it. If you suspect or have a disclosure from a child you should report this immediately.

Don't Delay - Take Action Today

Give us a call and set an appointment to speak with one of our clinicians to diagnose and treat your family member or friend. We welcome the chance to provide them with the expert assistance they need.


Don't delay. Get the help you need today! Call (865) 214-7584 to set an appointment.

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