Recognize the signs of child, teen, and relationship abuse

By NO MORE Staff|

There are always signs of sexual abuse and assault, if you know where to look.


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Warning signs that you are in an abusive relationship:

Does your partner:

  • Embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
  • Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
  • Force you to try and drop charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide?
  • Threaten to kill you?

Information provided by the National Domestic Violence Hotline,

Warning signs of teen dating abuse:

Indicators that your friend may be in an abusive relationship:

  • When your friend’s partner subjects him/her to name calling and puts him/her down in front of other people.
  • Your friend’s partner acts extremely jealous when your friend talks to people of the opposite gender, even when it is completely innocent.
  • Your friend apologizes for his/her partner’s behavior and makes excuses for him/her.
  • Your friend frequently cancels plans last minute for reasons that sound untrue.
  • Your friend’s partner is always checking up on him/her – calling and texting, and demanding to know where and with whom your friend has been.
  • You’ve seen your friend’s partner lose his/her temper, maybe even break or hit things when angry.
  • Your friend seems worried about upsetting or angering his/her partner.
  • Your friend is giving up things that used to be important to him/her, like spending time with friends or other activities.
  • Your friend’s weight, appearance or grades have changed dramatically. These could be signs of depression, which could indicate abuse.
  • Your friend has injuries he/she can’t explain, or the explanations given don’t make sense.

Indicators that your teenage daughter/son may be in an unhealthy relationship:

Your Teen:

  • Apologizes and/or makes excuses for his/her partner’s behavior.
  • Loses interest in activities that he/she used to enjoy.
  • Stops seeing friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated.
  • Casually mentions the partner’s violent behavior, but laughs it off as a joke.
  • Often has unexplained injuries or the explanations often don’t make sense.

The Partner:

  • Calls your teen names and puts him/her down in front of others.
  • Acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to your teen.
  • Thinks or tells your teen that you, the parent(s), don’t like them.
  • Controls your teen’s behavior, checking up constantly, calling or texting,
    and demanding to know who he/she has been with.


  • See the partner violently lose their temper, striking or breaking objects.

Information provided by Love Is Not Abuse,

Warning signs that someone may be a perpetrator of sexual violence:

A person who:

  • Tolerates sexual harassment or street harassment
  • Has restrictive ideas about masculinity
  • Believes that women should be responsible for keeping themselves safe
  • Makes jokes about sexual assault or rape
  • Makes light/joke about women not being valuable
  • Lacks of healthy models for consent or consensual sex
  • Thinks consumption of violent pornography or images of coercive or violent sexual acts
  • Believes that alcohol will make sexual encounters better or women more willing to have sex
  • Views the use of commercial sex (stripping, pornography, prostitution/escort services) as normal male activities or rites of passage
  • Believes that certain groups are better than, or more deserving than others (sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, etc.)

Warning signs a child may have been sexually abused:

  • An increase in physical complaints; loss of appetite, or trouble eating or swallowing
  • Unexplained fear or dislike of certain people, places or situations
  • Sudden mood or behavior changes: rage, fear, anger or withdrawal
  • Nightmares, sleep disturbances or fear of bedtime
  • Regression to infantile behaviors such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting
  • Pain, itching or bleeding in genital/rectal area; torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Abnormal interest in sex or knowledge of sexual matters inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Frequent genital or urinary tract infections or irritations
  • Preoccupation with their body or excessive masturbation
  • Refusing to talk about a “secret” he/she has with an adult or older child

In older children and teens you may see additional behaviors such as:

  • Self-injury such as burning or cutting;
  • Suicide attempts;
  • School or discipline problems;
  • Eating disorders;
  • Low self esteem;
  • Running away.

Characteristics of perpetrators of child sexual assault:

  • Exhibits an unusual interest in a particular child or particular age or gender of children
  • Socializes more with children than with adults
  • Creates opportunities to spend time alone with children
  • Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even when the child does not want this affection
  • Encourages a lack of modesty or privacy around the home and on the part of children
  • Discusses age inappropriate topics with a child
  • Exhibits lack of interest in normal adult sexual relations
  • Is overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen (e.g., talks repeatedly about the child’s developing body or interferes with normal teen dating)
  • Obsessively and/or frequently masturbates
  • Expresses voyeuristic behaviors such as watching children bathe or play after they have changed into their pajamas

Information provided by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center,


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