Warning Signs

Signs of Sexual Interest in Children

Remember: Children are most often molested by someone they know or whom the parents know. Potential signs of sexual interest in children are if an adult:

  • Refuses to let a child set any of his or her own limits.
  • Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even when the child does not want affection.
  • Is overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen (e.g. talks repeatedly about the child's developing body or interferes with normal teen dating.)
  • Manages to get time alone or insists on time alone with a child without interruptions.
  • Encourages silence or secrets with a child.
  • Spends spare time with children and has little interest in spending time with someone his/her own age.
  • Regularly offers to babysit many different children for free or takes children on overnight outings alone.
  • Buys children expensive gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason.
  • Allows children to consistently get away with inappropriate behaviors.
  • Talks repeatedly about the sexual activities of children or teens.

Warning Signs of Child Abuse

Any one sign does not mean that a child was abused. Some of the behaviors below can show up during stressful times in a child's life, as well as when abuse occurs. If you see several of these signs in a child, please begin to ask questions.

  • Cutting or burning her/himself as an adolescent.
  • Extreme fear of "monsters."
  • Fear of certain people or places. For example: a child may not want to be left alone with a baby-sitter, a friend, a relative, or another child or adult; or a child who is usually talkative and cheery may become quiet and distant when around a certain person.
  • Loss of appetite, or trouble eating or swallowing.
  • New words for private body parts.
  • Nightmares, trouble sleeping, fear of the dark or other sleeping problems.
  • An older child behaving like a younger child such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking.
  • Refusing to talk about a "secret" he/she has with an adult or older child.
  • Sexual activities with toys or other children, such as simulating sex with dolls or asking other children/siblings to behave sexually.
  • Spacing out at times.
  • Stomach illness all of the time with no identifiable reason.
  • Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, anger or withdrawal.
  • Suddenly having money.
  • Talking about a new older friend.