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Signs of Child Abuse

The following signs and symptoms are commonly associated with abuse, however they alone are not conclusive.  Please use this as a guide to help identify abuse when it is present.

Physical Abuse

  • Frequent injuries that are unexplained and/or when the child or parent cannot adequately explain injury causes such as: bruises, cuts, black eyes, fractures, burns

  • 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 involving 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 discomfort when moving

  • Aggressive, disruptive, and destructive or self-destructive behavior

  • Passive, withdrawn, emotionless behavior

  • Fear of going home or seeing parents


  • Obvious malnourishment 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

Emotional Abuse

  • Speech disorders

  • Delayed physical development

  • Substance abuse

  • Ulcers, asthma, severe allergies

  • Habit disorders (sucking, rocking, biting)

  • Antisocial or destructive behaviors

  • Delinquent behaviors (especially adolescents)

  • Developmentally delayed

Sexual Abuse

  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

  • Pain, swelling, or itching in genital area

  • Difficulty walking or sitting

  • Excessive seductiveness, inappropriate sex play, or premature understanding of sex

  • Role reversal, overly concerned for siblings

  • Significant weight change

  • Suicide attempts (especially adolescents)

  • Threatened by physical contact or 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

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