What are the signs that a child has undergone FGM/C?
There are no definitive signs that a child has undergone FGM/C. Some signs you can look out for include frequent trips to the restroom, long unexplained absences, isolation from friends, and other behavioral changes that are similar to what you would see in a victim of abuse.
As FGM/C is more commonly done between birth and 15 years of age, it’s important to consider the different ways signs may present across age groups.1 For example, young children may not recognize the harm, despite physical pains, if the practice was explained as a cultural norm. Some children may isolate, some may be vocal if they recall the experience, and some may not remember the experience at all but they may be experiencing the long-term health effects. Although the signs of a child having undergone FGM/C are broad, it’s helpful to stay informed on the continued harmful practice so that it’s not missed when abuse is suspected.
Please review the physical and mental health effects of FGM/C in other sections of this toolkit.
What if my student has undergone FGM/C?
The first step is to get help for your student, which may include both physical and mental health support. Work with the school counselor and nurse to find the right resources for your student. If the student needs gynecological services, have the school nurse or counselor contact the doctor beforehand to ensure they have dealt with similar issues before. If the provider does not have any experience with FGM/C, explain to them the importance of not shaming the victim or reacting with shock or disgust. You can refer providers to our Health Care Provider Toolkit to help them learn more about FGM/C.
The next step is to contact child protective services (CPS) to report the FGM/C. As a mandated reporter, you are required by law to report it.2 FGM/C is illegal in the U.S. and transporting a child overseas to undergo the mutilation/cutting is also illegal.3 Keep in mind that your student may have a sibling who is also at risk and you should do what you can to protect them from harm.
Please review the infographic resource below on what to do if your student is at risk or has undergone FGM/C.