Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

The Joyful Heart Foundation was started by Mariska Hargitay, the star of Law and Order, Special Victims Unit.  On their website they list the 10 most common signs of child abuse so people can recognize an abused child and report it to officials. Learning these signs and discussing them with those close to you is the first step in breaking the pattern of violence that hurts us all.

1. Unexplained injuries – Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child’s injuries.

2. Changes in behavior – Abuse can lead to  many changes in a child’s behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.

3. Returning to earlier behaviors -Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue.

4. Fear of going home – Abused children may express apprehensions or anxiety about leaving school or going places with the person who is abusing them.

5. Changes in eating – The stress, fear and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or loss.

6. Changes in sleeping – Abused children may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.

7. Changes in school performance and attendance – Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children’s injuries from authorities.

8. Lack or personal care or hygiene – Abused and neglected children may appears uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.

9. Risk-taking behaviors – Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities, such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.

10. Inappropriate sexual behaviors – Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.

If you notice a child with some of the above behaviors it is probably best not to immediately confront the parents or caretakers of the child. If they are the abusers, you will only cause them to go further undercover and they will deny any abuse is going on. The child will probably deny it too, because they are deathly afraid of their abuser.

If you notice a child with some of the above behaviors contact an abuse hotline or the school or the police. I will give you the website  with the phone numbers of the abuse hotlines in my next post. Reporting child abuse can put you at risk for abusive behavior yourself so please be tactful and discreet.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lyn Leahz
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 14:53:04

    Thanks for helping children in the world today. There is so much of this it is sad and sickening. I hate hearing about things every day that happen to children. God bless you in your endeavors.


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