As a parent, you don’t ever want to imagine that someone is hurting your daughter. Unfortunately, statistics show that it is all too common. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 25 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys will experience sexual abuse prior to the age of 18. As unsettling as this is, these statistics may not even reveal the whole story. Many victims of sexual abuse don’t come forward or seek help. They may be afraid or ashamed of what occurred. The predator who assaulted them may have threatened them as well. Small children who know nothing of sexuality may not even realize anything is wrong until they grow older.
Your daughter needs you to be her voice, and in order to do that, you first need to know how to identify sexual abuse in teenagers. Keep in mind that not all survivors of abuse exhibit the same symptoms. However, these are the most common behavioral symptoms and psychological indicators.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Teens
Eating Disorders- An article by Mary Anne Cohen, director of the New York Center for Eating Disorders, explains that many troubled teen girls who have been sexually abused develop eating disorders as a result of it. Some use binge eating, starving themselves or purging as a self-induced punishment for the abuse. Many may feel guilty for enjoying the sexual contact. What they don’t realize is that between 4 to 5 percent of people reporting rapes in the U.S. also report having an orgasm. The body responds to sex and has a physical response to it, whether the mind is on board with it or not.
Self-Injury- Cutting, burning and other forms of self-injury may indicate many different problems, including depression and bullying. However, self-mutilation can be a sign of sexual abuse as well, especially with combined with other symptoms. According to the British Journal of Psychiatry, approximately 5 percent of teens who are sexually abused experience self-injurious behavior.
Drug Use- All too often, we’re told if our troubled teen is using drugs, they are doing it to fit in or be cool. This is not only unhelpful, but it’s also irresponsible. Punishing your child for doing drugs without understanding the real reason behind why she picked it up in the first place isn’t going to help her overcome her addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA,) a study of 1,411 women indicated that childhood sexual abused greatly increased the likelihood of drug and alcohol dependence.
Changes in Behavior- It’s normal for teens to be moody and to want to hang out with their friends more than you. However, if your normally happy 14-year old daughter suddenly loses interest in activities she once loved, becomes angry with you for no reason and has trouble in school, talk to her and see if there is something more going on.
Depression- Depression is often of on the most common signs of sexual abuse in teen girls, especially if they feel they don’t have the relationships they need to provide support and comfort as they attempt to come to terms with the trauma. While depression can be an indicator of other issues, be aware that it, when combined with other physical, behavioral and mental health symptoms, may be a telling sign of sexual abuse.
Do you think your daughter has been the victim of sexual abuse? Know what to look for, always be ready to listen and never place blame on your child. Then, contact Greenbrier Academy. We offer a wide range of therapeutic options that can help your daughter recover while also thriving in a challenging and supportive academic atmosphere.