How do I know if my son or daughter is a victim of sexual abuse?

Given the recent complaints of sexual abuse in schools in Bogotá that have led to demonstrations and riots, some parents fear that their children are facing similar situations in their educational institutions and do not know how to talk about it. So, How do you know if your children are victims of this behavior?

To find out some warning signs in children and offer relevant recommendations to parents and guardians, Infobae Colombia consulted Fabián Rodríguez, a psychology professional from the National University of Colombia with experience in the forensic area and specialization in Legal and Criminological Psychology. from the Catholic University of Colombia.

To facilitate the identification of sexual abuse in school-age children, the psychologist recommends that sexuality not be treated as a taboo at home. The correct names of private parts must be used, as well as teaching them that they have the right to decide about their body: for example, who touches him and who washes him — “since they are three years old they usually do not need help to take care of cleaning their genitals”—.

It is also key that children are allowed to reject any interaction that makes them feel uncomfortablelike a caress “If they don’t like it, they’re going to do something and they’re going to understand that it’s not, and when someone transgresses that they don’t have to tell,” recommends the psychologist. Also, it should be explained to them that not all secrets deserve or need to be kept.

First of all, children may start asking questions about sexual abuse at home, due to the high media coverage of these outrageous cases. That may be the first sign, since at school age empathy is not yet well developed nor is the concept of abuse clear.

“If they are not familiar with the subject, they will not fully understand what is being talked about. Usually Until they are 14 years old, they do not have a very critical vision to understand what another person is experiencing.”, assures Rodriguez.

So, the psychologist suggests reviewing why the topic is resonating with a minor – yes, without falling into stigmatization, since curiosity is healthy and normal at any age. “There you have to go in to do something, go in to investigate what may be happening, because knowledge of these issues is not typical of that age.”

“Then, if they suddenly become curious about the subject, you have to see if it is mere curious instinct or if something else is going on.”

Rodríguez explains that it is common for children to present sexual behavior as a match or a secret, so they will follow the rules and not identify that they are being attacked. Of course not knowing saves them from the physical and psychological consequences of abuse.

Sudden irritability in a normally calm child is a red flag. “There is usually crying as if from nowhere and they may not want to be touched or that they look at them or do absolutely nothing with them, because it is making them uncomfortable, ”says the psychologist. It should also draw attention to apathy towards daily activities that they previously enjoyed or assumed naturallysuch as a decrease in academic performance and appetite.

Even if they receive some early sexual education, boys and girls do not become closely connected with their sexuality and genitality until puberty. So, the sexualized behaviors of a little one should draw the attention of her caregivers.

For the psychologist, some examples of sexualization include “draw pictures where you can clearly see a sexual organfor example, of the phallic type, or that they have behaviors such as undressing out of nowhere, from one moment to another, or that they touch their private parts a lot and with great insistence”.

Adults should also be alert to physical reactions to abuse, such as urinary, vaginal, or anal discomfort or infections that would not occur in good hygiene conditions.

Although it is better that the topic of sexuality is discussed at home in a natural and respectful way, it is important that any change in the child’s personality is not attributed to a situation of abuse. After all, some behaviors are related to, but not exclusive to, abuse.

“On many occasions, talking about abuse with a child can even lead to abuse, even if it didn’t happen. So, you have to see what things in your environment can make behavioral changes in the child.

As mentioned before, questions about the topic, irritability, early sexualization and some physical discomfort They usually come together when there are cases of abuse. Of course, what the child has to say should be listened to carefully about.

If there is a strong suspicion of sexual abuse, Rodríguez recommends go to a Comprehensive Care Center for Victims of Sexual Abuse (Caivas) of the Attorney General’s Office. You can also make the report at a family police station. The psychologist points out that revictimization of the child should be avoided, which can occur if he is asked to tell her story repeatedly.

Once the authority confirms the abuse, it initiates a process of restitution of rights. When these abuses exist, the ICBF usually refers children to the psychology service to avoid the long-term consequences of abuse: “emotional problems, such as depression or anxiety, difficulty relating to others and making friends; he may be very withdrawn socially, isolated from all people and may have difficulty adjusting to an environment.”

In adulthood, they can also develop risk behaviors such as substance abuse, irresponsible sexual behavior, eating disorders, and risk of suicide. “Then, the ideal is to take the boy or girl from the earliest to psychology to avoid all that.”


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How do I know if my son or daughter is a victim of sexual abuse?