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Friday, April 12, 2013

Help Stop Child Abuse: Recognizing Signs of Abuse


The first step in helping abused or neglected children is learning to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect. The presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring in a family, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination.

If you do suspect a child is being harmed, reporting your suspicions may protect the child and get help for the family. Any concerned person can report suspicions of child abuse and neglect. Some people (typically certain types of professionals) are required by law to make a report of child maltreatment under specific circumstances — these are called mandatory reporters. For more information, see the Child Welfare Information Gateway guidelines on Mandated Reporting.

For more information about where and how to file a report, contact your local child protective services agency or police department. An additional resource for information and referral is the Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline (800.4.A.CHILD). 

Recognizing Child Abuse: The following signs may signal the presence of child abuse.

The Child:

  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention
  • Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
  • Lacks adult supervision
  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
  • Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home

The Parent:

  • Shows little concern for the child
  • Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child's problems in school or at home
  • Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
  • Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
  • Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs 

The Parent and Child:

  • Rarely touch or look at each other
  • Consider their relationship entirely negative
  • State that they do not like each other 

Types of Abuse 

The following are some signs often associated with particular types of child abuse: physical and sexual. It is important to note, however, that these types of abuse are more typically found in combination than alone. A physically abused child, for example, is often emotionally abused as well, and a sexually abused child also may be neglected. For more information on neglect and emotional abuse, visit helpguide.org.

Signs of Physical Abuse 

Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the child:

  • Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes
  • Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school
  • Seems frightened of the parents and procrastinates, protests or cries when it is time to go home
  • Shrinks at the approach of adults
  • Fights with peers, acts out in self-destructive behavior or destroys things
  • Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver

Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Offers defensive, conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury
  • Describes the child as "evil," or in some other very negative way
  • Uses harsh physical discipline with the child
  • Has a history of abuse as a child

Signs of Sexual Abuse 

Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:

  • Has difficulty walking or sitting
  • Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
  • Reports nightmares or bedwetting
  • Experiences a sudden change in appetite
  • Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
  • Runs away
  • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver

Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child's contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
  • Is secretive and isolated
  • Is jealous or controlling with family members

Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. Do your part to stop child abuse, call the National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) if you suspect a child is being abused.

Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International
Source: https://www.childwelfare.gov/

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