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Child Abuse: What Are the Signs, How to Take Action

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — abril 20, 2021 — 3 min de lectura
More than half a million children were abused in 2019. However, we know that thousands more are abused each year, but the abuse goes unreported.

Children remain silent out of fear. Fear of their abuser. Fear of not being believed. Fear of what others—family, friends, even strangers—will think.

That’s why it’s so important for adults to know the signs of abuse. Not all victims share what’s happened to them outright.
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Signs of Child Abuse

Child Protective Services can only help kids whose abuse is reported. Below are some signs of abuse according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

An abused child may:
  • Show sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Not receive help for physical problems brought to the parents’ attention
  • Not receive help for medical problems brought to the parents’ attention
  • Have learning problems or difficulty concentrating (not caused by specific health diagnoses)
  • Always seem watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
  • Lack adult supervision
  • Be overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
  • Come to school or other activities early, stay late, and may not want to go home
  • Be reluctant to be around a particular person
  • Have unexplained injuries (burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes)
  • Share that they’ve been treated badly

Parents and Caregivers Show Signs, Too

Sometimes parents and caregivers can show signs* of being the child abuser.
An abusive parent or caregiver may:
  • Deny the existence of—or blame the child for—the child’s problems in school or at home
  • Ask teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
  • See the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
  • Demand a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve
  • Look primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of the parent’s emotional needs
  • Show little concern for the child
*Find the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s complete list of child abuse signs here.

How to Take Action

If you think a child is being abused or neglected, it’s critical to follow the steps below. You can also visit RAINN’s (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) website to read about these steps in more detail.
  1. Recognize the abuse. Watch for the signs of abuse that we listed above.
  2. Talk to the child. RAINN suggests that you have this conversation in a space the child feels comfortable. Speak to them directly and let them speak freely. Avoid judgment and reassure the child. Use the word “I” to start your sentences (ex. “I am concerned because I heard you say…”). Assure them that they aren’t in any trouble.
  3. Report the abuse. Before reporting, tell the child that you’re going to talk to someone who can help. RAINN emphasizes that you should be clear you’re not asking for the child’s permission.

Reporting Child Abuse

If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, you must report what you know to your county’s Department of Social Services (DSS). Find contact information for your local DSS office here.

Resources and Support for Children and Families

All child abuse victims deserve support—even if the abuser wasn’t caught or the abuse happened long ago. Get connected to the help you and your family needs by clicking on the links below: Find more resources for parents and caregivers.

Stop Child Abuse Before It Happens

While not all child abuse can be avoided, parents and caregivers can take action to prevent it. For more child abuse prevention resources, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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