Every day, at least four children die as a result of child abuse. More than 70 percent of these innocent victims are less than 3 years old.
Many cases of child abuse go unreported because adults who could intervene are not familiar with the signs of child abuse. They don’t recognize there’s a problem until it’s too late.
Keep reading to learn how you can spot the warning signs of child abuse now.
Types of Abuse
There are five different types of abuse to watch for.
- Physical abuse is when someone purposely causes physical harm to a child. This often takes the form of striking a child with fists, feet, or objects.
- Emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. It may include saying cruel or demeaning things or involve isolating or rejecting children.
- Sexual abuse is considered any form of sexual activity that involves or is engaged in around a child.
- Neglect is when parents or guardians fail to meet children’s basic needs such as food, shelter, and medical care. Neglect can also take the form of failure to meet intangible needs such as affection, supervision, and education.
- Medical abuse is when adults deny children needed medical care. Alternatively, they may provide false information to medical personnel that results in children receiving unneeded and inappropriate medical treatment.
Signs of Child Abuse
Child abuse symptoms may be physical, circumstantial, or behavioral. Following is a summary of what each of these types of abuse looks like.
Physical Signs of Child Abuse
Physical signs and symptoms of child abuse are often the easiest to spot. They include:
- Unexplained or excessive bruising or bleeding
- Physical injuries that do not correlate with the excuse given for them
- Children being noticeably underweight or lacking in personal hygiene
- Insufficient food or clothing
- Obviously untreated injuries or health conditions
Circumstantial Signs of Abuse
In many cases, abusers take pains not to leave physical marks. In these cases, you may be more likely to notice circumstantial evidence. Signs of sexual abuse, in particular, are more likely to be circumstantial than physical.
- Adults touching children despite their refusal or requests to stop
- Adults engaging in lewd or sexually explicit talk or jokes around children
- Children being regularly absent from school or other activities
- Children consistently lacking adult supervision
- Adults belittling, yelling at, or demeaning children
- Adults placing unreasonable demands on children
- Adults shaking children, throwing things at them, or tying them up
Behavioral Signs of Abuse
Neglect and physical or sexual abuse signs are often first recognized in changes to children’s behaviors. Children may:
- Express fear or reluctance to go with or be around certain people
- Exhibit age-inappropriate sexual talk, knowledge, or behaviors
- Avoid all physical contact
- Relapse into behaviors they have outgrown such as bedwetting or thumbsucking
- Withdraw from friends and activities
- Become aggressive or hyperactive
- Experience marked drops in academic performance
- Become depressed or anxious
- Harm themselves
- Hoard food
Many adults are hesitant to report abuse because they don’t have any proof. They may also be afraid of getting into trouble themselves. If you find yourself with these doubts, it is important to remember that:
- You do not need hard proof to report suspected abuse
- You can report abuse anonymously
- You should never attempt to address the issue with a suspected abuser yourself
If you suspect abuse, you can:
- Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453
- Chat anonymously online with a representative from the National Sexual Assault Hotline
- Call your local police, hospital, or child protective services
- Call 911 if immediate help is needed
If you’re still unsure, take the time to learn about sex abuse law and how taking action could help save the life of an abused child.
Knowledge Is Power
Many abusers get away with their crimes because of misinformation or a lack of information among potential reporters. Learning the signs of child abuse and your rights to report suspected abuse puts the power in your hands.
So don’t wait. Take the time to learn what you need to save children’s lives today.
And, if you’re compelled to do so, please share this post on social media. Awareness is the first step to making a real change.
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