Signs & Symptoms

The following are signs commonly associated with abuse, but they are not absolutes. This list is not a checklist but a guide to help identify abuse when it is present.

Physical Abuse:

  • Frequent injuries that are unexplained or child/parent cannot adequately explain their causes
  • Burns or bruises in an unusual pattern that may indicate the use of an instrument
  • Lack of reaction to pain
  • Injuries that appear after the child has not been seen for several days
  • Evidence of delayed or inappropriate treatment for injuries
  • Injuries involve the face, backs of hands, buttocks, genital area, abdomen, back, or
  • sides of the body
  • Frequent complaints of pain without obvious injury
  • Complaints of soreness or uncomfortable when moving
  • Aggressive, disruptive and destructive or self-destructive behavior
  • Passive, withdrawn, emotionless behavior
  • Fear of going home or seeing caregivers

Neglect

  • Obviously malnourished or inadequate nutrition
  • Lack of personal cleanliness
  • Torn and/or dirty clothes
  • Need for glasses, dental care or other unattended medical attention
  • Consistent hunger, stealing or begging for food
  • Distended stomach, emaciated
  • Lack of supervision for long periods of time
  • Frequent absence or tardiness from school
  • Regularly displays fatigue or listlessness or falls asleep in class
  • Reports that no caretaker is at home
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Extreme loneliness and need for affection

Sexual Abuse

  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Pain, swelling or itching in genital area
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Sexual knowledge that exceeds developmental level
  • Role reversal, overly concerned for siblings
  • Significant weight change
  • Suicide attempts (especially adolescents)
  • Threatened by physical contact, closeness
  • Extreme fear of being alone with adults especially if of a particular gender
  • Sudden refusal to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
  • Sexual victimization of other children
  • Major change in normal mood or behavior

Emotional Abuse

  • Speech disorders
  • Delayed physical development
  • Substance abuse
  • Ulcers, asthma, severe allergies
  • Habit disorders (sucking, rocking, biting)
  • Antisocial, destructive behaviors
  • Delinquent behaviors (especially adolescents)
  • Developmentally delayed

If you have a suspicion of abuse, you are required to report. If there is an immediate danger to the child, call the police, otherwise you may call the abuse hotline at 1.800.252.5400 or report online.