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Dr. Azibanigha Scott: Is Your Child Being Sexually Abused? 5 Warning Signs to Look Out For

The perpetrators of sexual abuse are not strangers. They are closer to your home than you think. They could be the driver, the help, neighbour, family friend, or even your relative.

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Last week, I wrote about sexual abuse in Nigerian children and how the general consensus is that it is grossly under-reported.

A disturbing piece of information from UNICEF shows that about 88% of sexual abuse victims know their abusers, and only 4.2% of abused girls and 3.4% of abused boys have received any form of help. So mum, dad, anyone out there, perpetrators of sexual abuse are not strangers. They are closer to your home than you think. They could be the driver, the help, neighbour, family friend, or even your relative.

I am all about prevention, hence the reason why I took time to talk about ways to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse in children. Today, however, I will be focusing on some signs of sexual abuse in children. Some of these signs are subtle, and if you notice this, please seek appropriate counsel and help that child.

They are:

Pain in the genital area
In severe cases of abuse, there will be bleeding and discomfort in the genital area. As a parent or guardian, if you notice, when giving your little ones a bath, that they are avoiding the genital area or crying seriously, you should ask questions. I’m not saying any discomfort in the genital area is due to abuse; there could be an infection, and it could be unrelated.

A sudden unexplained change in attitude, especially keeping more to themselves, not playing like usual, not as happy as usual, are red flags you have to pay attention to. Some kids who have just experienced sexual abuse go through a phase where they are not sure of what is going on, what has happened to them. It takes them a while to process and make out of what has happened, and they can be withdrawn during that period.

Victims of sexual abuse may experience nightmares, abnormal sleep patterns, with occasional screaming at night. While nightmares are common in children, the emphasis in this article is any new deviation from the child’s sleeping pattern. You need to pay attention to such.

Not wanting to be alone with any particular person/ fear of being alone
In my previous article, I wrote that, according to UNICEF, 88% of sexually abused children know who the abuser was. In other words, abusers are closer to you thank you think, hence the need to be watchful of your child or any child who suddenly is scared of being alone, or scared of being alone with a particular person. Always try to find out why the child suddenly doesn’t want this person around. Observe their body language.

Outburst of anger
Outburst from repressed emotions can often be seen in victims of sexual abuse. Watch out for a sudden outburst of anger or an exaggerated response to issues. Like a child who is suddenly being overreactive to issues, like crying when the situation does not warrant it.

If you know any child being abused, please seek appropriate help immediately.

Dr. Azibanigha Scott Akpila a.k.a Dr. Azi Scott is a medical doctor who is passionate about solving our unique health problems using technology. She got her medical degree from the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons In Dublin Ireland. She worked as a clinical content researcher and later on as a clinical analyst in one of the largest tech companies in Dublin Ireland before recently moving to Nigeria where she currently works as a physician in one of the Country's leading teaching hospitals.

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