Physical abuse can be any act of violence (accidental or intentional) that results in an injury to a child. This may include punching, kicking, shaking, stabbing, throwing, biting, choking, burning or hitting (with an hand or an object, like a belt or switch).

 

Physical abuse can result in:

  • Bruises, blisters, burns, cuts and scratches
  • Internal injuries, possible brain damage
  • Broken bones, sprains, dislocated joints
  • Emotional and psychological harm
  • Lifelong injury and/or death

Signs of physical abuse:

  • Any injury to a child who is not crawling yet
  • Visible and severe injuries
  • Injuries at different stages of healing on different surfaces of the body that are unexplained or explained in a way that doesn’t make sense
  • Distinctive shapes of bruising and injuries
  • Frequency, timing and history of injuries (frequent, after weekends, vacations, school absences)

Behavioral signs of physical abuse:

  • Aggression toward peers, pets, other animals
  • Seems afraid of parents or other adults
  • Fear, withdrawal, depression, anxiety
  • Wears long sleeves out of season
  • Violent themes in fantasy, art, etc…
  • Nightmares, insomnia
  • Reports injury, severe discipline
  • Immaturity, acting out, emotional and behavior extremes
  • Self-destructive behavior or attitudes

Sexual abuse may include inappropriate touching, being forced to have sex or engage in sexual acts, being forced to watch pornography, being prostituted, or having someone expose themselves to a child.

 

Sexual abuse of children includes:

  • Non-contact abuse
  • Making a child view a sex act
  • Making a child view or show sex organs
  • Inappropriate sexual talk
  • Contact abuse
  • Fondling and oral sex
  • Penetration
  • Making children perform a sex act
  • Exploitation
  • Child prostitution and child pornography

Physical signs of sexual abuse:

  • Difficulty sitting, walking, bowel problems
  • Torn, stained, bloody undergarments
  • Bleeding, bruises, pain, swelling, itching of genital area
  • Frequent urinary tract infections or yeast infections
  • Any sexually transmitted disease or related symptoms

Behavioral signs of sexual abuse:

  • Reports sexual abuse
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes (e.g., for P.E.)
  • Withdrawn, depressed, anxious
  • Eating disorders, preoccupation with body
  • Aggression, delinquency, poor peer relationships
  • Poor self-image, poor self-care, lack of confidence
  • Sudden absenteeism, decline in school performance
  • Substance abuse, running away, recklessness, suicide attempts
  • Sleep disturbance, fear of bedtime, nightmares, bed wetting (at advanced age)
  • Sexual acting out, excessive masturbation
  • Unusual or repetitive soothing behaviors (hand-washing, pacing, rocking, etc.)
  • Sexual behavior or knowledge that is advanced or unusual

Emotional abuse is the most difficult category to define, and unfortunately, the most difficult type of abuse to investigate. Examples include harsh criticism, name-calling or derogatory comments, shaming, threatening, withholding love and affection, and possibly exposing children to domestic violence.

 

Emotional abuse can include:

  • Rejecting or ignoring: telling a child he or she is unwanted or unloved, showing little interest in child, not initiating or returning affection, not listening to the child, not validating the child’s feelings, breaking promises, cutting child off in conversation
  • Shaming or humiliating: calling a child names, criticizing, belittling, demeaning, berating, mocking, using language or taking action that takes aim at child’s feelings of self-worth
  • Terrorizing: accusing, blaming, insulting, punishing with or threatening abandonment, harm or death, setting a child up for failure, manipulating, taking advantage of a child’s weakness or reliance on adults, slandering, screaming, yelling
  • Isolating: keeping child from peers and positive activities, confining child to small area, forbidding play or other stimulating experiences
  • Corrupting: engaging child in criminal acts, telling lies to justify actions or ideas, encouraging misbehavior

Physical signs of emotional abuse:

  • Delays in development
  • Wetting bed, pants
  • Speech disorders
  • Health problems like ulcers, skin disorders
  • Obesity and weight fluctuation

Behavioral signs of emtional abuse:

  • Habits like sucking, biting, rocking
  • Learning disabilities and developmental delays
  • Overly compliant or defensive
  • Extreme emotions, aggression, withdrawal
  • Anxieties, phobias, sleep disorders
  • Destructive or anti-social behaviors (violence, cruelty, vandalism, stealing, cheating, lying)
  • Behavior that is inappropriate for age (too adult, too infantile)
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Neglect is a failure to provide certain basic necessities of life, including food/water, adequate shelter, or appropriate supervision. Not getting medical care or not being taken to school may also classify as neglect.

 

Physical neglect can include:

  • Deserting or refusing to take custody of a child who is under your care
  • Repeatedly leaving a child in another’s custody for days or weeks at a time
  • Failing to provide enough healthy food and drink
  • Failing to provide clothes that are appropriate to the weather
  • Failing to ensure adequate personal hygiene
  • Not supervising a child appropriately
  • Leaving the child with an inappropriate caregiver
  • Exposing a child to unsafe/unsanitary environments or situations

Emotional neglect can include:

  • Ignoring a child’s need for attention, affection and emotional support
  • Exposing a child to extreme or frequent violence, especially domestic violence
  • Permitting a child to use drugs, use alcohol, or engage in crime
  • Keeping a child isolated from friends and loved ones

Medical neglect can include:

  • Not taking child to hospital or appropriate medical professional for serious illness or injury
  • Keeping a child from getting needed treatment
  • Not providing preventative medical and dental care
  • Failing to follow medical recommendations for a child

Educational neglect can include:

  • Allowing a child to miss too much school
  • Not enrolling a child in school (or not providing comparable home-based education)
  • Keeping a child from needed special education services

Signs of neglect can include:

  • Clothing that is the wrong size, in disrepair, dirty, or not right for the weather
  • Often hungry, stockpiles food, seeks food, may even show signs of malnutrition (like distended belly, protruding bones)
  • Very low body weight, height for age
  • Often tired, sleepy, listless
  • Hygiene problems, body odor
  • Talks about caring for younger siblings, not having a caregiver at home
  • Untreated medical and dental problems, incomplete immunizations
  • Truancy, frequently incomplete homework, frequent changes of school