Child abuse comes in many forms. It could be touching a child’s private parts or making a child touch someone else’s genitals for your or someone else’s sexual pleasure. It also playing sexual games, sexual assault, and putting objects or body parts like the tongue, fingers or penis in the vagina, mouth or anus of a child. Another form of sexual abuse involves forcing a child to watch pornography or producing child pornography in video or photos. Inappropriate exposure of adult genitals or watching a child undress, bath or in appropriate poses for an adult’s sexual pleasure. Experts Mara Glennie, founder of the Tears (Transform Education About Rape and Sexual Abuse) Foundation, psychologist Khosi Jiyane and Dr Amelia Kleijn, a gender-based violence consultant say watch out for these red flags: Behavioural signs You’ll be able to notice some behavioural changes in your child. They may start having nightmares, be withdrawn or regress in development eg: They start bed wetting again. Paedophiles also groom children not to tell, so it may not be that easy to get the truth out of your child. Any changes in personality can be a sign that something is wrong. It may no be sexual abuse, but other kinds of abuse or stress and psychological problems. Gifts, language and exhibiting sexual behavior If your child starts bringing home gifts you didn’t buy, or suddenly have money you didn’t give them, it’s a sign that there’s an adult involved in their life – and not in a good way. Watch out for inappropriate behavior that may present in child play – using toys to demonstrate something well beyond their years or drawing sexual things that a child shouldn’t know. A child may speak in a strangely adult language with other children, or know too much when they see certain scenes on TV. And may also develop sudden fear of certain places or certain people. It doesn’t really mean that the person they are scared of is abusing the child, but the way they dress, walk or their voice may be a reminder of the person who is abusing them. Physical signs Pain, discolouration, bleeding or discharge in the genitals, anus or mouth; persistent or recurring pain during urination or bowel movements; and wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training are all signs that something is wrong. But, it’s important that you know that physical abuse does not only present in pain. If the abuse has been going on for some time, the child may not present with the usual physical signs of abuse. If you discover any signs of abuse, seek professional help so that you can support your child through this trauma.
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