The physical effects of sexual abuse in children

The physical effects of sexual abuse in children, particularly young girls, varies considerably, but tends to follow certain patterns. Problematically, physical damage tends to heal quickly, and reporting of abuse can take days, weeks or months, sometimes longer, meaning any physical evidence is long gone.

This means it is pertinent to, over time, keep one eye on your girl’s vulva and anus, so that any changes can be noted. It is doubly important to realise that kids are very active and hurt themselves all the time: the old-fashioned idea that a hymen will still be intact by the time a girl reaches adolescence is pure fancy, and isn’t that common, meaning the damage to or absence of a visible hymen isn’t a very good indicator. Hymen or saddle injuries in girls are very common.

Standard procedure for examining a girl who has been sexually abused should be followed by your doctor or pediatrician, so you know what to expect and how to care for a child in this very upsetting situation.

Important note: Parents and caregivers also need care and help in this situation; it can have a devastating impact on a family to learn your child has been abused.

Professional care by someone experienced in child sexual abuse must be consulted as soon as possible after abuse to increase the likelihood of a successful conviction of the perpetrator, and to ensure the child and family are properly cared for.

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.