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Child Sex Abuse: Warning Signs and How To Report It

May 18, 2022
Last updated Dec 11, 2023
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Child sex abuse is a devastating event that can cause psychological problems to children throughout their life. Survivors of these extreme offenses can experience depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other mental disorders. Often, it is difficult to know when your child is being sexually abused because they might not know it is happening themselves. Although it is impossible to undo these crimes or erase the mental and physical effects, it may be possible for survivors to report the crimes and receive compensation for their pain and mental anguish, as well as receive support for their recovery.

If you suspect that your child was sexually abused or if you are now an adult and believe you were abused as a minor, the attorneys at Edwards Henderson are ready to help you understand your legal rights and support you through the process of pursuing justice.

What Is Child Sex Abuse?

Child sex abuse can come in many different forms, but essentially it is the manipulating, forcing, pressuring, or otherwise grooming a child into doing something for another’s sexual gratification. This may involve no physical touch at all, such as indecent exposure or sexual conversation, or severely unlawful physical contact, such as molestation and sexual assault.

Some types of child sex abuse include:

  • Indecent exposure: Exposing a child to one’s genitals or any form of pornographic material.
  • Rape: Forced rape is nonconsensual, often including physical force or coercion.
  • Pressure or Coercion: This occurs when the victim is psychologically manipulated into performing a sexual act. Usually, it involves intimidation or threats.

What Are Some Warning Signs of Child Sex Abuse?

Child sex abuse has serious effects on the psychological and physical well-being of a child. Learning the warning signs of child sex abuse is essential in preventing and protecting a child at risk of this danger. Although not always easy to spot, there are some warning signs that can lead you to suspect this criminal activity is taking place; oftentimes, it is necessary to trust your instincts above all else.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), warning signs can be physical, emotional, or behavioral. Because they vary so much, it is important to be wary of sudden changes in behavior and trust your intuition.

Some physical warning signs of child sex abuse include:

  • Signs of physical trauma in the child’s private area, such as bruising, swelling, or blood
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Some emotional warning signs of child sex abuse include:

  • A change in mood or overall personality
  • Excessive worry or fears; anxiety
  • A change in eating habits, including eating disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Decrease in self-esteem
  • Fear of being alone; nightmares
  • New, unexplained health problems
  • Decrease of interest in hobbies, school, or friends

Behavioral warning signs that may indicate possible child sex abuse include:

  • Regressive behaviors like thumb-sucking or bedwetting
  • Overly compliant behavior
  • Sexual behavior that would be inappropriate for their age
  • Spending an excessive amount of time alone
  • Excessive dialogue or knowledge about sexual topics
  • Being secretive
  • Not wanting to be left alone with certain individuals

All in all, these warning signs can be diverse and not always precise to child sex abuse, but it is important to listen to your children above all. If they mention that someone makes them uncomfortable, even if they do not specify anything about the situation, listening to them and trusting your instincts will give you the best opportunity to recognize and stop child sex abuse.

What to Do If You Suspect That Your Child Is a Victim of Child Sex Abuse?

If you suspect that your child is a victim of child sex abuse, look into it further by closely observing and talking to your child. In efforts to keep your child safe, you can also speak to someone who can help you determine if this is indeed an act of child sex abuse, such as a local sexual assault service source. In the meantime, it is vital to avoid putting the child in any unsafe or unmonitored situations as much as possible.

If you do recognize this act as child sex abuse, you can report it. Although it is not an easy task, it is essential to protecting those you love from further abuse. In states like California, Florida, and New York, you are legally obligated to report child sex abuse if you have reasonable cause to suspect it. You can report these crimes to local authorities, such as the police or Child Protective Services, or you can contact the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline to help you navigate the process of reporting an act of child sex abuse.

Filing a Child Sex Abuse Lawsuit

You may also be able to take legal action. In a civil lawsuit, you are able to file for compensation against any organization that may have facilitated the abuse or failed to take the proper actions to prevent it. Many survivors have successfully made claims against companies and organizations for failing to protect them from sexual predators, including:

If there was a company or organization that employed or otherwise allowed your abuser or your child’s abuser to interact with minors and commit sex abuse, you may be able to pursue a claim for compensation. Even if you are now an adult, legal action may still be possible. Contacting a child sex abuse attorney at Edwards Henderson can help you understand the statute of limitations regarding the abuse and explain the process of reporting and filing a claim.

We understand how difficult it can be to speak up about sexual abuse, especially when it regards our children or our youth, but our child sex abuse law firm is ready to handle your claim with patience and compassion in order to give you the justice and peace of mind you deserve.

Edwards Henderson Can Help

If you or a loved one are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, our child sex abuse lawyers are ready and equipped to help you navigate the journey towards justice and peace of mind. Our legal team has the experience and settlement results to compassionately handle your case and help you fight for yourself. Time is of the essence in cases of sexual assault. Contact Edwards Henderson now to learn more about your legal options during a free legal consultation.


This page was last updated with new information on June 12, 2023.

June 12, 2023 Update:

Governor Kelly signed a bill to extend the time frame for civil lawsuits involving childhood sexual abuse. Many adult survivors of child sex abuse take years to heal from the trauma, while some have repressed memories of the trauma that are discovered well into adulthood. The extension of the time limit allows adult survivors of child sex abuse to have the option to seek accountability from their abusers and other enabling third party organizations.

Article Sources

  1. Warning Signs for Young Children
  2. RAINN: Use this tool to find help near you.
  3. Child Help Hotline

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