Child abuse can be very subtle and you may not even see signs. Look for changes in behavior and trust your instinct.
Some of the behaviors you may see include:
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.
Changes in behavior
Abuse can lead to many changes in a child’s behavior. Children who have been abused often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
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.
Fear of going home
Children who have been abused may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
Returning to earlier behaviors
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.
Changes in school performance and attendance
Children who have been abused may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the child’s injuries from authorities.
Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.
Inappropriate sexual behaviors
Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.
Changes in sleeping
Children who have been abused may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.
Lack of personal care or hygiene
Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.