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Sexual Abuse

Recognizing sexual violence is not always easy, especially if the victim is a child. A child's reaction can differ depending on his or her age, personality, and the nature of the offense. Sometimes child victims do not appear upset by crimes that seem very serious to adults. Inside, however, they might be frightened, angry or confused.

Child victims are sometimes afraid to tell anyone about what has happened, especially if the offender is a close friend or family member. They might be afraid that people will be angry with them, that it is their fault that the abuse happened, or that no one will believe them. They might also be afraid that the offender will do something bad to them or their family if they tell.

Adult victims of sexual violence can also experience fear, shame, and guilt about being sexually assaulted. Therefore, they may delay reporting the incident, or they may not report at all.

Many times, an offender will tell their victims:

  • That something bad will happen if the victim tells
  • That the offender will hurt or kill the victim or the victim's family
  • That no one will believe the victim
  • That parents and friends won't like the victim anymore
  • That reporting the abuse will break up the family and the victim will have to live some place else
  • That the family won't have enough money to live on if the offender goes to jail

Some victims think the abuse/assault was their fault, and they feel ashamed, guilty or embarassed about it. These are just some of the reasons victims might take back what they first said about being sexually assaulted.

Victims of sexual abuse can display a variety of physical, emotional and behavioral signs.