What Are Signs that Someone Is Being Abused?

“What Are Signs that Someone Is Being Abused?” How to Help (2018).

“What Are Signs that Someone Is Being Abused?” How to Help.

What are signs that someone is being abused?

Note: You are neither expected nor encouraged to diagnose whether someone is struggling with issues related to abuse. This information can help you recognize when professional intervention may be needed.

Signs of abuse are not always easy to recognize. Someone who has experienced, or is experiencing, abuse could show a number of signs that indicate something is wrong, but abuse may be happening even if there are no outward signs. Also, signs that might indicate abuse could be caused by other difficulties. Talking to the victim can be a good first step to understanding what is happening. However, victims often have a difficult time sharing that they have been or are being abused. If there is any indication of abuse, read “What should I do if I know or suspect someone is being abused?

As children of God and brothers and sisters, we have a responsibility to be aware of the needs and concerns of others and to reach out to them in love. Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, former Young Women General President, taught, “[We] take care of each other, watch out for each other, comfort each other, and are there for each other through thick and thin” (“Sisterhood: Oh, How We Need Each Other,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 119).

General Warning Signs

Victims of abuse often show more than one warning sign. Signs of abuse may vary based on the type of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, or verbal) and the age of the person being abused.

Victims of abuse may display the following warning signs:

  • Acting differently than they normally do

  • Exhibiting increased aggressive behavior

  • Being jumpier or more on guard

  • Having difficulty with sleep or having nightmares

  • Withdrawing and not wanting to be around other people

  • Losing interest in activities they once liked

  • Having unexplained physical injuries

  • Being more moody (angry, depressed, sad) than normal

  • Being preoccupied with sex

  • Engaging in harmful behaviors (this could include self-harm, drug use, and risky or unhealthy sexual behavior).

These signs alone do not mean that the person is being abused. To learn more about how to talk to a person you suspect may be experiencing abuse, read the article “What should I do if I know or suspect someone is being abused?

Emotions, Thoughts, and Behaviors Commonly Experienced by Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Learning the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that may result after sexual trauma can help you recognize signs of abuse. It can also help you understand and empathize with victims and encourage them to seek help. While the root of these emotions, thoughts, and behaviors is the abuse, the effects can be seen in many areas of a victim’s life.


  • Struggles with self-doubt and confidence.

  • Feels shame.

  • Is confused about identity.

  • Feels angry at self and others.

  • Struggles with excessive guilt.

  • Is fearful and struggles with trusting others.

  • Hurts all the time; feels exhausted.

  • Feels like everyone is looking at them and can see right through them.

  • Experiences depression or anxiety.

  • Is indecisive.



  • Why is this happening to me?

  • Why don’t people love me?

  • Why can’t I be good?

  • What has happened to me?

  • Why don’t they leave me alone?

  • Why can’t I be like others?

  • Why does it always happen to me?

  • Why doesn’t God or someone else stop it?

Blames and condemns self:

  • I must have caused it somehow.

  • It must be my fault.

  • I must be a very bad person.

  • There must be something terribly wrong with me.

Sometimes believes:

  • God doesn’t love me.

  • My parents can’t love me.

  • My situation will never change.

Additional thoughts:

  • Doesn’t trust own judgment.

  • Believes the world would be better off without them.

  • Can’t keep up with everyone else.

  • Has an “I don’t care” attitude.


  • Withdraws or lashes out at others.

  • Becomes extremely religious.

  • Struggles with authority, including Church leaders.

  • Develops medical problems.

  • Attempts suicide or engages in self-harm.

  • Engages in unhealthy sexual behaviors; may experience sexual problems in marriage.

  • Has unhealthy relationships and allows others to take advantage of them.

  • Often takes the blame; accepts guilt and responsibility.

  • Tries to be perfect.

  • Feels intense compassion for others.

  • Over-focused on others’ needs (including family) above their own.

Additional behaviors in children and teenagers:

  • Cries easily.

  • Wants and craves attention from adults, maybe even the offender.

  • Avoids or is uninterested or overly interested in age-appropriate discussion about sex.

  • Has many unexplained fears.

  • Neglects schoolwork, or escapes through excessive schoolwork, sports, or other activities.

  • Lies easily.

  • Rebels against parents and teachers.

  • Runs away from home.

Community and Church Resources

(Some of the resources listed below are not created, maintained, or controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While these materials are intended to serve as additional resources, the Church does not endorse any content that is not in keeping with its doctrines and teachings.)

Related Articles