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Recognizing signs of child abuse

Recognizing signs of child abuseWhile child abuse very rarely out in the open, there are certain signs, both physical and behavioral, that abused children often exhibit. Here are some of the signs that the child may exhibit – realize that abused children will not necessarily exhibit all of these signs and that some abused children may not show any of these basic signs.


• Bruises – one of the most obvious physical signs is unexplained bruises, welts, cuts, and/or bite marks. Unusual patterns/shapes can suggest the use of a belt buckle or other object. These can be especially suspicious if the child has been gone for a “vacation” or absent for some period of time.
• Burns – burns, like cigarette burns, found on the palms, soles of feet, etc. are another sign. Immersion burns are recognizable because only the immersed part of the body will be burned – for instance, the child will have a “glove” burn on a hand. Rope burns also may also be visible, as are burns that come in the shape of household utensils. An infected burn can show a delay in treatment.
• Extremes in behavior – extreme depression, withdrawal, aggression, regression, etc. are common behavioral signs.
• Poor explanations of injuries – the child may have inconsistent or unbelievable explanations.
• Shyness – while many children are shy, unusual shyness or an avoidance of physical contact can be signs of abuse.
• Fear of parent and resistance to going home – some abused children are excessively afraid of their caretakers.
• Antisocial behavior – substance abuse, skipping school, running away, etc.
• Fear of adults


• Frequent and unexplained urinary infections, yeast infections, and/or sore throats.
• Torn or bloody underclothes.
• Pregnancy
• Bruises and/or bleeding around the vaginal, anal area, or external genitalia.
• STDs
• Complaints about irritation of or pain around the genitals.
• The victim may say that he or she has been sexually abused. Do not disregard such “confessions.”
• Regression to bedwetting, thumb-sucking, fear of the dark, or other such behaviors.
• Decline in school importance.
• Difficulty sitting or walking.
• Wearing extra layers of clothes.
• Age-inappropriate or strange interest in sexual matters.
• Promiscuity.
• Seductiveness
• Recurring nightmares
• Over-compliance or excessive aggression


• Eating disorders like anorexia or obesity
• Nervous disorders like rashes or stomach aches
• Speech disorders like stuttering.
• Developmental delays
• Difficulty concentrating
• Apathy
• Low weight or height levels for age
• Habit disorders like biting or rocking
• Age-inappropriate behaviors like bedwetting
• Extremes in behavior like withdrawn to aggressive…
• Cruel behavior


• Untreated injuries and/or illnesses
• Poor hygiene
• Squinting
• No immunizations
• Low weight and height for age level
• Bad clothing – clothing inappropriate to the weather, missing underwear or other important articles of clothing.
• Often absent from school
• Begging for leftovers
• Assumption for adult responsibilities
• Often tired, hungry, and/or lethargic
• Report of no caretaker at home


It is also possible to learn whether or not a parent or caregiver is abusing a child by looking for signs of an abusive parent, too:

A physically abusive person may:
• Use harsh words to discipline the child.
• Have a personal history of abuse as a child.
• Describe the child in a very negative way.
• Offer a nonsensical or unconvincing explanation for the child’s injury.

A sexually abusive person may:
• Be excessively protective of the child.
• Prevent or limit the child’s contact with other children of the opposite sex.
• Be secretive.
• Be jealous and/or controlling when dealing with family members.

An emotionally abusive person may:
• Blame and/or belittle the child.
• Outright reject the child.
• Be unconcerned about the child, refusing help for the child’s problems.

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