Signs That Your Partner Could Be Abusing Your Child

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
April 9, 2018

Child abuse is a difficult subject to talk about, but it’s a necessary one. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Sadly, the abuse is often done by someone the child knows and trusts — often a parent, relative, spouse or partner. As part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, ACCESS is raising awareness about sexual abuse and how you can spot it — and stop it.

What is sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse occurs when an adult engages in any type of sexual activity with a child: touching, oral-genital contact, intercourse or exposure to child pornography. Not only is it abusive, it’s illegal as children cannot consent to sexual activity of any kind. 

What to look for in your child
Sexual abuse isn’t easy to spot. That’s because a child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent figure, relative or family friend. In fact, the child may have been threatened to not tell anyone by the abuser. Consider the possibility that your child is being abused if you see any of the following warning signs: 

  • He or she tells you they were sexually abused
  • Sexual behavior or knowledge that's inappropriate for your child's age
  • Pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection
  • Blood in your child's underwear
  • Trouble walking or sitting or complaints of genital pain 

What to look for in your partner
Adults who are abusing children usually do a good job covering it up. If you suspect your spouse or partner is abusing your child, look for the following types of behavior:

  • Jealous and controlling 
  • Secretive and isolated
  • Overly protective, keeping your child under watch
  • Limiting your child’s contact with others, especially of the opposite sex

Trust your gut
If you think your child is being abused, don’t brush it off. Schedule an appointment with your child’s primary care doctor, or call Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-422-4453. If you believe your child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Sources:

Child Welfare

Invisible Children

The Mayo Clinic