Signs and Symptoms of Child Abuse

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  • Physical Abuse
    Any non-accidental injury to a child.  This includes hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, pinching, hair pulling, biting, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping and paddling.
  • Physical Abuse Signs
    – bite marks
    -unusual bruises
    -high incident of accidents or frequent injuries
    -fractures in unusual places
    -injuries, swelling to face and extremities
    -discoloration of skin
  • Warning signs of physical abuse in children
    -Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
    -Is always “watchful” and “on alert” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
    -Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
    -Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
    -Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot  days.
  • Behavioral signs of physical abuse:
    -avoids physical contact with others
    -apprehensive when other children cry
    -wears clothing to purposely conceal injury, i.e. long sleeves
    -refuses to undress for gym or for required physical exams at school
    -gives inconsistent versions about occurrence of injuries, burns, etc
    -seems frightened by parents
    -often late or absent from school
    -comes early to school, seems reluctant to go home afterwards
    -has difficulty getting along with others
    -little respect for others
    -overly compliant, withdrawn, gives in readily and allows others to do for him/her
    without  protest
    -plays aggressively, often hurting peers
    -complains of pain upon movement or contact
    -has a history of running away from home
    -reports abuse by parents
  • Sexual Abuse
    Sexual abuse is any sexual contact with a child or the use of a child for the sexual pleasure of someone else.  This may include exposing private parts to the child or asking the child to expose him or herself, fondling of the genitals or requests for the child to do so, oral sex or attempts to enter the vagina or anus with fingers, objects or penis, although actual penetration is rarely achieved.
  • Sexual Abuse Stats:
    -10% of those children sexually abused are preschoolers (Children’s Hospital, D.C.)
    -85-90% involve perpetrator known to the child (Groth, 1982; DeFrancis, 1969;    Russell, 1983)
    -35% involve a family member (King County Rape Relief, Washington)
    -50% of all assults take place in the home of the child or the offender (Sanford, 1980)
    -The average offender is involved with over 70 children in his or her “career” of offending  (Sanford, 1980, Able and Becker, 1980)
  • Physical Signs of Sexual Abuse:
    -difficulty walking or sitting
    -torn clothing
    -stained or bloody underwear
    -pain or itching in genital area
    -venereal disease, especially in preteens
  • Warning signs of sexual abuse in children
    -Trouble walking or sitting
    -Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even     seductive behavior.
    -Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
    -Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
    -An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
    -Runs away from home.
  • Behavioral signs of Sexual Abuse
    -sudden reluctance to go someplace or be with someone
    -inappropriate displays of affection
    -sexual acting out
    -sudden use of sexual terms or new names for body parts
    -uncomfortable or rejection of typical family affection
    -sleep problems, including: insomnia, nightmares, refusal to sleep alone or suddenly insisting on a night light
    -regressive behaviors (thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, infantile behaviors or other signs of dependency)
    -extreme clinginess or other signs of fearfulness
    -a sudden change in personality
    -problems in school
    -unwilling to participate in or change clothing for gym class at school
    -runs away from home
    -bizarre or unusual sophistication pertaining to sexual behavior or knowledge, including sexual acting out
    -reports sexual assault by parent or guardian
  • Information source:
  • For Signs and Symptoms of Emotional Abuse:
  • For Signs and Symptoms of Neglect:

Photo credit: Kevin Walsh

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder is the founder of the Wisdom of the Wounded ministry. She lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband Larry.