Recognizing Sexual Abuse Among Children With Special Needs

Throughout history children have been subjected to sexual abuse, and recently the number of reported sexual abuse incidents has continued to rise. Studies have estimated that between 200,000 and 500,000 children are sexually assaulted or abused every year!

Here’s a shocking fact – historical data indicates that one in four girls and one in ten boys is likely to be a victim of sexual abuse, and it is widely suspected that a large portion of sexual assault cases among children are never reported to the authorities.

The uniqueness of children with special needs increases their risk of abuse. Children with physical or mental disabilities may have a longer dependency on a caretaker, and may be troublesome to manage since many have difficulty with basic social interaction and behavior.

It is critical to understand and be able to spot the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse. However, it is important to remember that the presence of a single one of these indicators is not conclusive. Some signs which may be within the norm for some children may not be typical for others. However, if a substantial combination of these signs is present, it may be reasonable to suspect that sexual abuse exists.

What is Sexual Abuse?

In short, sexual abuse is improper sexual contact between an adult and a child, or any forced sexual contact.

What Are The Symptoms?

Physical Indicators:

* Complaints of pain, itching or irritation in genital or rectal area
* Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
* Evidence of trauma (e.g., bruises or bleeding) of the anus, external genitalia, or vaginal area
* Child has difficulty walking or sitting
* Presence of a sexually transmitted disease

Behavioral Indicators:

* Child displays bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior.
* Child acts seductively toward classmates, teachers or other adults.
* Child masturbates excessively.
* Child has sleep disturbances (e.g., bedwetting, nightmares.)
* Child is fearful of particular places or persons.
* Child demonstrates abrupt change in behavior or personality.
* Child appears withdrawn or depressed.
* Child begins to overeat or under-eat.
* Child regresses to immature behaviors such as wetting pants or sucking thumb.
* Child demonstrates over-aggressiveness or acts out.
* Child cries without provocation.
* Child has feelings of low self-worth.

Family Dynamics Related to Abuse:

* There is a history of sexual maltreatment and abusive behavior in the family of origin of the suspected perpetrator.
* The suspected perpetrator acts dominant, protective and/or jealous of the child.
* The suspected perpetrator misuses drugs or alcohol.
* The suspected perpetrator lacks social contacts outside the family.
* The suspected perpetrator turns to the child to get emotional and physical needs met.
* The generational boundaries between parents and child are unclear.

If you are a victim of past sexual abuse, or know of a child who has been the subject of any improper sexual encounter, contact us immediately. Our staff of private investigators at Graves Investigations Inc. has years of experience resolving abuse cases involving children. Call us toll-free at 877-638-8254, or e-mail us at

(Additional content courtesy of Our Kids Center)
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