Recognising Gbv

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It is incredibly difficult for some girls to share when they have experienced harassment, rape or other forms of GBV. Equipping coaches, programme staff and girls with ideas of symptoms to look out for in girls can help identify when a girl is being abused:

Common Symptoms: 56

  • Unexplained, vague or suspicious medical complaints
  • Visible bruises, scratches or marks
  • Unusual psycho-social symptoms such as acting infantile, insecure, scared
  • Inability to concentrate or focus on a specific task
  • Depression, withdrawal or suicidal tendencies
  • Self destructive behaviours such as cutting
  • Sudden or extreme shifts of moods or emotions; increased irritability, anger or rage
  • Fear of a particular caregiver or parent
  • Fear of going home after school
  • Exaggerated startled response
  • When a child starts misbehaving
  • Sudden change in how a girl carries herself or how she walks
  • Pain or itching in the genital area
  • Symptoms associated with a venereal disease, such as sores
  • Signs of pregnancy, nausea, lack of energy, increased appetite, protruding stomach
  • Fearfulness
  • Excessive crying
  • Broken bones
  • Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed or other sleep disturbances
  • Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters.
  • A sudden acting out of feelings or aggressive or rebellious behaviour
  • A fear of certain places, people, or activities, especially being alone with certain people. Children should not be forced to give affection to an adult or teenager if they do not want to do so. Be alert to signs your child is trying to avoid someone and listen carefully when your child tells you how he or she feels about someone
  • Lack of trust in adults or over familiarity with adults, fear of a particular adult
  • Social isolation – being withdrawn or introverted, does not appear to have any friends
  • Running away from home
  • Display of sexual knowledge beyond the child’s age
  • Overly-sexualized behaviour
  • Unusual interest in the genitals of adults, children or animals
  • Multiple bruises that are all in different stages of healing
  • Testing as HIV positive
  • Infections in the genital areas, especially sexually transmitted infections
  • Discomfort / difficulty in walking or sitting
  • Fear of medical examinations
  • Stained underwear, soiling or wetting
  • Fear of being alone when needing to use toilet facilities
  • Psychosomatic factors e.g. recurrent abdominal or headache pain
  • Clinging to their mother and screaming when others come near
  • Follow their mother around everywhere, and looking anxious
  • Refuse to be comforted by anybody else
  • Lost their bladder and bowel control
  • Have stopped talking. If signs of normal development were there before – and have gone– something may be wrong. Children are not being naughty; they are just saying that “I’m not happy!”
  • Small children can’t find the words to talk about, for example, sexual acts, but they may show them in their play or in their drawings
  • A child who has done well in school starts to get behind in her/his schoolwork
  • A child drops out of school
  • They may start to use drugs and alcohol  

56 . Adapted from Save the Children’s “Protect the Children: A Guide to Support those Working and Living with Children Affected by Violence” and The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.