Sexual Assault in Children, Signs and Symptoms

Sexual assault is an ongoing and under-reported scourge that is ravaging society as a whole. In Nigerian society, sexual assault often goes unreported due to the shame and trauma associated with the victims. Young Children and infants are the most vulnerable demographic in this ongoing fright.

An estimated 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are and will be sexually molested according to crimes against children researchers. More than 50% of these assaults are carried out by known and trusted individuals. When perpetrator is a known person increases the shame and fear factor for small children.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria, a pervading sense of fear for adults and people in authority makes this worse. Uncles, aunts, trusted neighbors, domestic help, bosses, religious leaders and even parents are guilty of sexual assault on a daily basis.

sexual assault victim
Sexual assault in black children

In today’s hectic world, how do you balance your daily responsibilities with keeping close watch on your children? We can help you with some subtle and not so subtle signs of abuse in children. Although most psychological signs of abuse are also possible in other situations, they should always be investigated.

Below is a compilation of both physical and psychological or behavioral symptoms to help identify a child suffering from, sexual assault.


Physical Signs of Sexual Assault

  1. Sexually transmitted infections and diseases
  2. Torn or stained/bloodied underwear
  3. Wounds or abrasions on the genitals, mouth, anus or other covered body parts.
  4. Self-mutilation (self-induced injuries)
  5. Suicide attempts
  6. Change in walk or gait
  7. Pain while urinating or defecating
  8. Accidental defecation or urine unrelated to potty training

Psychological Signs of Sexual Abuse

  1. Constant unwarranted crying
  2. Sudden bursts of anger and violence
  3. Withdrawal and pensiveness in an otherwise bubbly child
  4. Fear of certain persons and situations
  5. Masturbating
  6. Fear
  7. Feeding and bowel problems
  8. Nightmares
  9. Lack of self-confidence and openness
  10. Regressive behavior such as bedwetting and thumb-sucking
  11. Being overtly explicit about sex and using adult terms in describing sexual organs
  12. Carrying out sexual conduct with toys and other children.

Sexual assault in kids doesn’t have to be merely touching or penetrating. Certain behaviors can also be sexually motivated. Despite the fact that these non-contact behaviors are not noted as abuse, they have long-term effects on the abused children.


Non-Contact Sexual Behaviours

  1. Masturbating in front of children
  2. Making a child masturbate
  3. Voyeurism
  4. Showing children pornography
  5. Making children act out pornography
  6. Taking sexually suggestive pictures of a child
  7. Soliciting a child


Any adult who exhibits the following characters towards a particular child or children, in general, should be closely watched.

  • Consistently buying expensive gifts for a particular child
  • Always wanting uninterrupted alone time with a child or children
  • Insistent on showing physical affection to a child, always kissing, hugging or touching even when the child feels uncomfortable with it.
  • Segregating a particular child as their favourite.
  • Anyone who always volunteers to bathe a child or take them on bathroom breaks.
  • Taking an undue interest in the sexual development of an infant, child or teenager
  • Picking on a particular child
  • Refusal to give a child privacy when asked.

For the safety of children all around and to avoid undue mental and physical health problems with children and adults in general, it is advisable to pay attention to such behaviours.

Older children and teenagers could also be instigators of sexual abuse, and such cases are much more difficult to break