Recognizing signs of child abuse
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.
SIGNS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE
• 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
SIGNS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
• Frequent and unexplained urinary infections, yeast infections,
and/or sore throats.
• Torn or bloody underclothes.
• Bruises and/or bleeding around the vaginal, anal area, or external
• 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.
• Recurring nightmares
• Over-compliance or excessive aggression
SIGNS OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE
• Eating disorders like anorexia or obesity
• Nervous disorders like rashes or stomach aches
• Speech disorders like stuttering.
• Developmental delays
• Difficulty concentrating
• 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
SIGNS OF NEGLECT
• Untreated injuries and/or illnesses
• Poor hygiene
• 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
SIGNS TO LOOK FOR IN THE PARENT/CAREGIVER
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
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