A Dad’s Guide to Recognizing Sexual Assault in Children

This article was submitted to the Dads Fight Back 100k Stories Project by Brian Kent. Bryan is a partner at AbuseGuardian.com. He graduated with a law degree from Philadelphia’s Temple University and served as a criminal prosecutor in the Sex Crimes Unit of Montgomery County’s District Attorney’s Office.


According to the National Center for Victims and Crime and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau, more childhood sexual assault is taking place than many people realize. According to the aforementioned organizations’ studies, about 20% of girls and 5% of boys are victims of sexual abuse of some sort. The organizations also report that, over the course of the one-year period of a self-report-based study, 28% of U.S. children between the ages of 14 and 17 were sexually assaulted in some fashion.

The type of abuse in question is incredibly harmful to the psychological state of children as they grow up. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, children who have been sexually assaulted are 13.7 times more likely to be the victim of rape during their freshman year of college. The same study claims that children who are victims of long-term sexual abuse and assault develop feelings of worthlessness and an abnormal view on sex and sexuality.

What Are The Types of Childhood Sexual Abuse/Assault

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, there is a wide variety of acts that are considered childhood sexual assault or abuse that you should be aware of. These are:

  • Exposing oneself to a minor
  • Sexual intercourse with a child
  • Non-penetrative sexual acts with a child
  • Forcing a child to watch sexual acts
  • Sexual phone, text, or digital communication with a child
  • Producing, processioning or sharing pornographic images or video of a minor
  • Child sex trafficking
  • Any other sexual misconduct that could be harmful to a child’s welfare

If your child or someone else’s child implies that they are the victim of any of the above acts, you should contact the proper authorities immediately, as it is possible that the child is being sexually assaulted or abused.

The Signs of Child Sexual Assault

Other than the previously mentioned verbal implying of sexual assault, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network classifies a wide variety of other behaviors as warning signs that a child is currently being or has previously been the victim of sexual assault. These warning signs include psychological signs such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, wetting the bed, the development of phobias, regression into behaviors like thumb sucking, suicidal thoughts or unusual knowledge of sexual behaviors. The child may also begin having trouble in school, randomly be absent from school or run away from school.

Signs of sexual assault can be physically apparent as well. Children who have been sexually assaulted may have difficulty walking or sitting, have unusual pain or burning sensations in the genital area, have wounds in the genital area or suffer from unusually frequent urinary or yeast infections. Some of these signs are readily apparent while others are not.

However, fathers should also look out for any of the aforementioned signs. Also, keep in mind that all children deal with sexual assault differently, so an assaulted child may not exactly demonstrate the above signs. If it seems like a child is demonstrating any signs that they may have been sexually assaulted, the father should be sure to attempt to approach the child and encourage them to speak with them about it. If the child seems afraid or unwilling to speak about it, this too may also be a sign of sexual assault/abuse. If there is even an inkling of a possibility that a child you know is or has been sexually assaulted, as a father, you should use your best judgment regarding moving forward in taking any of the actions explained in the next section.

What Can You Do?

As a father, if you believe that child sexual assault may be happening, it is your duty to act. If you truly believe that you know a child who is being sexually assaulted or abused, you should contact your local police or call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453.

The sexual assault/abuse of children is all too prevalent in today’s society. Brian Kent from AbuseGuardian.com  states that sexual abuse of children and teenagers in American schools is one the most challenging issues facing our country today. As a father, it is important that you be aware of the various statistics and types of sexual abuse as well as possible signs that your child or someone else’s child is enduring.

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