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Child Abuse Prevention Month: Signs of Abuse

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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.   

Mary Jacobson, Director of WI Youth and Family Programs at the Family & Children's Center, explained some of the signs of child abuse.

According to FCC:

There are many signs of abuse, but sometimes they are hidden or are revealed in a way you might not realize.

 Four main types of abuse that have different indicators, but often times signs overlap.

 Responsibility of adults to take action and keep children safe, report your suspicions.

 It's not always obvious but catching abuse early helps the child receive appropriate treatment and increases the chances of recovery.

Signs of Abuse and Types

 There are many red flags and warning signs that indicate abuse may be happening, however, it is difficult to differentiate the type of abuse without further investigation.

 Four main types of abuse:

 Signs of Physical Abuse

o Frequent or unexplained injuries such as bruises, burns, or welts.

o Explanations that don't match the injuries

o Injuries that have a specific pattern, like they could've been made with a hand or belt.

o Abuses pets or animals

 Signs of Sexual Abuse

o Torn, stained or bloody underclothes

o Unexplained sore throats

o Trouble walking or sitting

o STDs or pregnancy (especially before age 14)

 Signs of Emotional Abuse

o Overeating or not eating enough

o Speech disorders such as stammering or stuttering or other developmental delays in speech or motor skills

o Nervous disorders rashes, hives, facial tics and frequent stomach aches

 Signs of Neglect

o Clothes are inappropriate for the weather, don't fit correctly, or are unclean

o Consistently bad hygiene: unbathed, matted hair, noticeable body odor

o Untreated medical or dental problems, or other untreated injuries

What to Look For in Behavior

 Sometimes there can be overlap in signs of behaviors for the different types of abuse.

 Behavioral indicators of abuse include:

o Extreme changes in behavior, excessively withdrawn, overly anxious or aggressive, loss of self-confidence

o Always on the lookout for something bad to happen, appear scared

o Avoiding certain situations or people for no apparent reason

o Lingering after school or other activities, not wanting to go home

o Frequent absences from school

o Emotional outbursts

o Interest in sexual behavior or language that is age-inappropriate

o Experimenting with high-risk activities such as using drugs and alcohol or carrying a weapon

o Changes in sleep habits that could include frequent nightmares

o Behaviors from an earlier stage of life could return such as bedwetting, thumb-sucking, fear of the dark and strangers, or loss of acquired language or memory.

 Certain risk-factors can increase the likelihood of abuse occurring. These include:

o alcohol and drug use in the home

o witnessing domestic violence

o caregivers who have untreated mental illness

o lack of parenting skills

o stress and lack of support

 Unexpected behavior from parents and other adults can also be warning signs.

o Shows little concern for the child

o Denies any problems exists at home or school

o Blames problems on the child

o Consistently berates the child with negative terms such as "worthless" and "evil"

o Severely limits the child's contact with others

o Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for the child's injuries.

Disclosures & Reporting

 Most people that work with children in a professional setting are mandated reporters, meaning they are required by law to report abuse and signs of abuse.

 You don't have to be a mandated reporter, anyone can report abuse.

 Your suspicions could save a life or help a child who has been suffering.

 If a child discloses that they are being abused, don't place blame or deny their reports, remain calm and limit your questions so that the child can talk.


For more help, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD to talk to a counselor. The phone line is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

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