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Sanford Health Dakota Children's Advocacy Center:
The impact of child sexual abuse on elementary-aged children
Children who have been sexually abused may display a range of emotional and behavioral reactions, many of which are characteristic of children who have experienced other types of trauma. A number of factors influence how a child reacts to a specific traumatic event including:
This aged child may exhibit younger behaviors, like asking adults to feed or dress them, after exposure to trauma. They may also report unexplainable physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches. However, these children also present symptoms that are not typical of younger children. Elementary-aged children have a better understanding of the full meaning of the traumatic event, resulting in feelings of depression, fear, anxiety, emotional “flatness,” anger, or feelings of failure and/or guilt. These feelings are often evident in the child’s behavior, like withdrawal from friends, increased competition for attention, refusal to go to school, aggressive behavior, inability to concentrate and a decrease in school performance. Even though these children understand what occurred more fully than younger children do they are not always able to understand why it happened.
A list of other behaviors that traumatized elementary school-aged children may exhibit include:
Children can and do recover from sexual abuse.