SVU - Signs of Child Abuse

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What should you do if you suspect child abuse?
If you suspect child abuse, take the child to a quiet, private area. Encourage the child to give you information on what occured to evaluate if it is abuse. Remain calm and not upset at the child. If abuse has occured, reassure the child that you believe him/her, that he/she has the right to tell you and that he/she is not a bad person. Immediately, report the abuse to proper local authorities. In most states, reporting child abuse is required by law. To report suspect child maltreatment in the U.S. contact the National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453.

What are signs of child abuse?

Physical Abuse
  • Unexplained or repeated injuries such as welts, bruises, or burns.
  • Injuries that are in the shape of an object (belt buckle, electric cord, etc.)
  • Injuries not likely to happen given the age or ability of the child. For example, broken bones in a child too young to walk or climb.
  • Disagreement between the child's and the parent's explanation of the injury.
  • Unreasonable explanation of the injury.
  • Emotional withdrawal/distance.
  • Fearful behaviour.
  • Temper tantrums/violence.
  • Parental refusalof needed medical care.
  • Child seems afraid of parents/care givers.
  • Bullying of other children.
  • Alcohol abuse by parents/care givers
  • Shaken baby syndrome

Emotional - Verbal Abuse
  • Aggressive or withdrawn behavior.
  • Afraid to go home.
  • Premature sexual/romantic promiscuity for girls.
  • Lack of sexual interest (e.g. dating) for boys.
  • Shyness
  • Failure to look people in the eye.
  • Temper tantrums/violence.
  • Speech and language difficulties.

  • General dirtiness.
  • General unhealthiness.
  • Lice, fleas, and similar parasites.
  • Parental refusal of needed medical care.
  • Stunting of mental/emotional growth.
  • Too thin, not within weight range for age and gender.
  • Alcohol/drug abuse by parents/care givers.
  • Parents/care givers often (but not always) have low edcuation and income.

Sexual Abuse
  • Unusually early preoccupation with sex.
  • Child tells you he/she was sexually mistreated.
  • Child has physical signs such as: difficulty in walking or sitting, stained or bloody underwear, genital or rectal pain, itching, swelling, redness, or discharge, and/or bruises or other injuries in the genital or rectal area.
  • Child has behavioral and emotional signs such as: difficulty eating or sleeping, soiling or wetting pants or bed after being potty trained, acting like a much younger child, excessive crying or sadness, withdrawing from activities and others, and/or talking about or acting out sexual acts beyond normal sex play for age.

Types of Child Abuse:

  • Physical Abuse - Any non-accidental physical injury to a child.
  • Sexual Abuse - Is any sexual act between an adult and a child.
  • Emotional Abuse - Is any attitude, behavior, or failure to act on the part of the caregiver that interferes with a child's mental health or social development.
  • Neglect - Is a failure to provide for the child's basic needs.
  • Child Exploitation - This is the use of a child in work or other activities for the benefit of others.

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