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10 Signs of Child Abuse

1. Unexplained injuries.

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.

2. Changes in behavior.

Abuse can lead to many changes in a child’s behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or overly aggressive.

3. Age-inappropriate behaviors.

Abused children may display age-inappropriate behaviors, e.g., for older children: thumb-sucking, bed-wetting or fear of the dark.

4. Fear of going home.

Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.

5. 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 weight loss.

6. Changes in sleeping.

Abused children may have frequent nightmares or may appear tired or fatigued.

7. Changes in school performance and attendance.

Abused children may have difficulty concentrating and have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children’s injuries from authorities.

8. Lack of personal care or hygiene.

Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for and may be wearing unsuitable clothing for the weather.

9. Risk-taking behaviors.

Young people who are being abused may engage in illegal activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.

10. Inappropriate sexual behaviors.

Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.

Some signs that a child is experiencing violence or abuse are more obvious than others. Trust your instincts. Suspected abuse is enough of a reason to contact the authorities. You do not need proof.

IF YOU SUSPECT A CHILD has been abused...

DO

  • Keep calm.
  • Believe the child.
  • Show interest and concern.
  • Take action. It can save a child’s life.

DON'T

  • Panic or overreact.
  • Pressure the child.
  • Confront the offender.
  • Blame the child.
  • Overwhelm the child with questions.

How to Report Suspected Child Maltreatment

Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect. Reporting abuse or neglect can protect a child and get help for a family—it may even save a child's life.

If you suspect a child is in danger, call 911 or The National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD

The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Hotline counselors are there 365 days a year to help kids, and adults who are worried about kids they suspect are being abused or neglected. You can call this number if you live in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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