Catching the Signs of Sexual Abuse or Assault

Lufkin Psychologist Dr. Frankie Clark counsels an average of 100 sexual assault victims each year. Most of them are children. Clark says after the physical scars of sexual abuse disappear, emotional ones remain.

"The emotional scars associated with sexual assault last sometimes a lifetime, and what is affected is trust. Who do you trust? Who don't you trust? Because most of the victims are perpetrated by a known person. It tends to be a family member, a neighbor, someone close who has the ability to get the trust of the child," said Dr. Frankie Clark.

Each year the Lufkin Police Department investigates around 30 cases of sexual-related crimes involving children. Lieutenant Harold Cottle says it can be difficult for parents to tell that a child has been sexually assaulted. But he says the signs are often there.

"There really are no hard and fast rules to identify when a child has been or is being sexually assaulted. It depends on the age of the child. The younger the child, the more difficult it is to communicate with the child about that topic. But with young kids, the best for parents is to look for changes in behavior," explained Cottle.

Some specific signs that you can look for include a child withdrawing from others, not wanting to be touched, or exhibiting inappropriate sexual behavior. All are signs of possible sexual abuse. It's a difficult task for parents to keep an eye on their children at all times.

Experts say three are no clear cut guidelines to avoid sexual assault or abuse, they do have some advice and possible warning signs to look for. First of all, be aware of how your children behave around neighbors, friends and relatives. If they draw away or have a tendency to not want to be around those people, ask your children why? And something that parents have not had to worry about several years ago is the Internet. Monitor your children's computer activity. Police say the amount of child predators over the net has increase tremendously over the last few years. And finally, what may be the most important thing, keep open lines of communication with your children. Listen to them and talk with them about inappropriate touching and that they can trust you.