Signs of Child Abuse
The people on the front lines of recognizing and reporting child abuse are called mandated reporters. These are people who generally come into contact with children as part of their work. Teachers, doctors, nurses, and children's residential workers are all mandated reporters. If in the course of their work they discover the signs of child abuse or if a child reports being abused, mandated reporters must make a report to child protective services---no questions asked. The mandated reporter simply tells what has been observed or told to him and leaves the investigation of the abuse to men and women who are trained to do such investigations.
Fortunately, most child abuse is observed and reported by mandated reporters; however, there are times when ordinary citizens like you may be the first or only ones to see the abuse and report it. Abuse could occur with a neighbor's child or even with someone in your own family. It's important that you know the signs so you can recognize them.
Here are some signs that would be observed in general if a child is being abused or neglected. While they might not all be signs of abuse or neglect, it is important to pay attention to other behaviors that may seem unusual or concerning.
Sudden changes in behavior or school performance
Has not gotten help for physical or medical issues the parents are aware of
Is distracted from learning or has difficulty
Appears to always be watchful as though preparing for something bad to happen
Lacks adult supervision
Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
Comes early, stays late, does not want to go home
Does not want to be around a particular person.
The parent my also show signs that could indicate his or her child is being abused:
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
See his or her child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
Looks to the child for care, attention and satisfaction of the parent's emotional needs
Shows little concern for the child.
The parent and child may show signs that are apparent in their relationship. For example:
Rarely touch or look at each other
Consider their relationship entirely negative
State that they do not like each other.
Signs of specific types of abuse may be more apparent. If you have observed the following you may want to consider that child has been physically abused:
Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones or black eyes
Has fading bruises or other marks
Seems afraid of parents and doesn't want to go home
Shrinks at the approach of adults.
Signs of neglect may include:
Is frequently absent from school
Begs or steals food or money
Is not getting basic and necessary medical care
Is consistently dirty and has body odor
Does not have sufficient clothing for bad weather
Signs of sexual abuse may include:
Has difficulty walking or sitting
Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
Reports nightmares or bed wetting
Experiences a sudden change in appetite
Has a bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under 14
Attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults.
Any of the above signs alone may not indicate child abuse, but a pattern of multiple signs may give a stronger indication.