No one wants to think the foster child in their care, who already has a list of traumas, has been sexually abused. The sad fact is that it happens way more often than it should. You may have already told your case worker that you don’t want to take a child that has been sexually abused, that doesn’t mean you won’t end up with a child who has been.
Case workers don’t always know about the sexual abuse because it isn’t always the reason a child is taken into care. In Arkansas this year, only about 4% of children were taken into care because of sexual abuse. However, the number of sexually abused children is much higher. If there are hard drugs in the house, there’s a good chance there has been sexual abuse.
Why don’t the case workers know? The parent probably isn’t going to say anything — if they know about it. And the children probably aren’t going to say anything either. Why? Because most of these kids have been abused and secluded for so long they have no clue that the abuse isn’t normal.
So how do you find out without blatantly asking a child?
There are several signs that indicate a child may have been sexually abused:
- Explicit sexual knowledge beyond the child’s developmental stage
- Sexual preoccupation indicated by language, drawings, or behaviors
- Inserting toys or other objects in genital openings
- Sexual behaviors with other children that seem unusual, aggressive, or unresponsive to limits or redirection
- Excessive masturbation, sometimes in public, not responsive to redirection or limits
- Pain, itching, redness, or bleeding in the genital areas • Nightmares, trouble sleeping, or fear of the dark
- Sudden or extreme mood swings: rage, fear, anger, excessive crying, or withdrawal
- “Spacing out” or appearing to be in trance
- Loss of appetite, or difficulty eating or swallowing
- Cutting, burning, or other self-mutilating behaviors
- Unexplained avoidance of certain people, places, or activities
- An older child behaving like a much younger child: wetting the bed or sucking a thumb, for example
A child behaving in a sexual manner is not a sure sign that abuse has happened. At different stages of development children express their curiosity and sometimes even experiment. Seeing any of the above signs is definitely a reason to call your case worker and/or take them to a physician. It is better to be safe than sorry in this area. If you discover a child in your home has been sexually abused there are things you need to do to keep you, the child, and any other children in the house safe.
For more information, download this pdf: sexual-abuse-information