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This information can be downloaded from this page in PDF format. Single printed copies are also available by request via e-mail: oag@oag.state.md.us or telephone: (410) 576-6300 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free in Maryland



Both behavioral and physical signs may provide clues that a child is being sexually abused. Keep in mind, however, that many of these changes can also occur at other times of stress or trauma in a child’s life, like a divorce or the death of a loved one or pet.

Behavioral warning signs:

  • nightmares, fear of the dark, or other sleeping problems;
  • extreme fear of “monsters;”
  • loss of appetite, trouble eating or swallowing, or constant stomach aches and disturbances for no apparent reason;
  • sudden mood swings, e.g., rage, fear, anger, or withdrawal, or spacing out at odd times;
  • fear of certain people or places not formerly feared, or uncharacteristic behavior around a certain person, e.g., a talkative child becomes quiet and distant around a babysitter;
  • regressive behavior, like a return to thumb sucking or bed-wetting;
  • imitating sexual behavior with toys or other children;
  • using new words for body parts;
  • refusing to talk about a “secret” the child shares with an adult or older child;
  • talking about a new, older friend;
  • suddenly having money;
  • cutting, burning, or hurting himself or herself as an adolescent.

Physical warning signs:

  • unexplained bruises, redness, bleeding, or pain around a child’s genitalia, anus or mouth;
  • sores or milky fluids in the genital area.

Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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