One in thirteen boys and one in four girls experience sexual abuse by age 18. Knowing the warning signs teens display when suffering through sexual abuse can help parents recognize when abuse is occurring. Teens who are sexual abuse survivors need your support and understanding.
If your teen has been sexually abused, call the Indiana teen sexual abuse attorneys at our law firm to discuss your legal options for a civil claim. We can help you get the justice your teen deserves if they have been sexually molested or assaulted by a mentor like a teacher, coach, clergy member, or medical provider.
When a teen goes through the cruelty of sexual abuse, you may spot signs reflected in their behavior. Many children act out to get attention. If your normally docile, fun-loving teen transforms into an angry, defiant child, it may be a cry for help. Watch for these signs:
- Displaying problematic sexual behavior
- Engaging in risky sexual behavior
- Gaining expensive possessions without explanation (clothes, electronics, jewelry, shoes, purses)
- Using alcohol or drugs
- Changes in appetite
- Erratic driving
- Secretive and obsessive time spent online
Children respond differently to abuse than adults. Their age, the relationship with their abuser, and the severity of the abuse all impact the physical signs of sexual abuse. Some teens will not show any outward signs, and many kids will not tell anyone because they may be afraid of the consequences.
Paying attention to your teen’s physical behavior can help you notice some signs of sexual abuse. For example:
- Complaints of pain when using the restroom
- Complaints of headache or stomachache with no apparent cause
- Bruises on soft body parts (such as the thighs, buttocks, and waist)
- Pain or difficulty walking or sitting
- Missed periods (for females)
- Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases
- Evidence of self-harm (such as cutting)
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Signs of sleep loss
Teens may also deal with the frustrations and confusion of sexual abuse through emotional outbursts rather than communicating the cause of their feelings. They may not understand what happened to them was sexual abuse. They may also feel humiliated and scared that they will be blamed for their own abuse.
Survivors of sexual abuse may display erratic or uncharacteristic emotional behavior, including:
- Acting angry or aggressive without provocation
- Getting emotional at the mention of a person or place
- Having trouble creating or sustaining relationships
- Unexplained bouts of crying
- Frequent nightmares
- Sexual identity confusion
- Low self-esteem
If you notice changes in your teen’s personality or social patterns, it could be a sign of abuse. Your child may be trying to avoid the abuser, like a friend’s parent or a coach, or they could be trying to distance themselves due to shame. Be on the lookout for your teen:
- Becoming a loner
- Avoiding a person or a place
- No longer engaging in extracurricular activities
- Changing friend groups
- Struggling with academic performance
Sexual abuse is a form of adverse childhood experience (ACE). An ACE drastically affects an individual’s development over time. The horrors of being sexually abused can cause short and long-term consequences to a teen’s health.
Sexual abuse can cause physical problems that last for years, including sexually transmitted infections (STI), pregnancy, obesity, or injury to bones, muscles, and internal and reproductive organs. Dealing with sexual abuse can also cause significant mental health problems, including depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), suicidal thoughts, and anxiety.
Long-term exposure to sex abuse also puts teens at a higher risk for using drugs. Survivors of child sexual abuse are 26 times more likely to use drugs and 13 times more at risk of abusing alcohol.
The trauma of being a teen sexual abuse victim can remain with your child for a lifetime. While a civil suit won’t undo what happened, seeking compensation against an abuser and holding the the institutions that harbor them accountable can help provide closure and financial stability.
It can also help offset the financial costs often associated with abuse, like expenses for medical and psychological treatments, legal fees, and relocation.
Contact Wagner Reese, Indiana’s voice for sexual abuse survivors, for a free consultation and learn how we can support your family through this challenging time and help you seek justice on behalf of your teen.