In a very young child you might see traumatic play in which the child re-enacts some aspect of the experience. For example, a child may act out running away from a “bad man” over and over again. The play may or may not be specific to the sexual abuse. You might see other signs of stress, an increase in oppositional or withdrawn behavior, tantrums, or nightmares. The child might engage in age-inappropriate sexual behavior such as trying to engage another child in oral-genital contact or simulated intercourse. The child might talk about their body as being “hurt” or “dirty.” Of course, children may have these problems for other reasons, so you cannot assume they mean the child has been abused.
Appears in: The Impact of Abuse on Children