Children's Rights Foundation
Heal the Earth... Start with Our Children
THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CHILD ABUSE
What is Child Abuse?
Although there are many formal and acceptable definitions of child abuse, the following is offered as a guide;
Child abuse consists of any act of commission or omission that endangers or impairs a child's physical or emotional health and development.
Child abuse includes any damage done to a child which cannot be reasonably explained and which is often represented by an injury or series of injuries appearing to be non-accidental in nature.
The Major Forms Of Child Abuse Are:
Who Inflicts The Abuse?
Child abusers are found among all socio-economic, religious and ethnic groups and are most often ordinary people who are trapped is a stressful life situation with which they cannot cope satisfactorily.
A child abuser is usually a person closely related to the child such as a parent, step-parent, or other caretaker.
The child abuser is seldom a total stranger.
How Can I Identify Child Abuse?
It is important to remember that child abuse is not usually a single act, but a repeated pattern of behavior. This is true of all types of abuse, physical, emotional and sexual. You may wonder how you can identify the child abuse victim. The following symptoms are offered as general guidelines to help you.
Symptoms to watch for include:
Other injuries to be concerned about:
In addition to outright abuse, physical neglect may be indicated by such things as:
Emotional Abuse and Deprivation:
The negative effects of emotional abuse can be as devastating to a child's development emotionally, intellectually and behaviorally as are the injuries sustained by physical abuse. Most physical abuse is accompanied by emotional abuse as well. Although this type of abuse is often difficult to recognize and identify, the best interests of the child should be the first concern in reporting this type of abuse. Close attention should be given when it is suspected that the emotional abuse is the result of a willful act creating mental suffering for the child. Since emotional abuse often has no visible physical signs, there are those who have resorted to inflicting this type of abuse on their children believing it is less likely to be reported. Therefore, awareness of the potential harm of this type of abuse is crucial.
Indicators of emotional abuse include:
Sexual exploitation, molestation and incest are additional devastating types of child abuse. The societal taboos surrounding this type of abuse have kept it from widespread exposure. Therefore, until recently it has received the least amount of publicity, keeping it a hidden form of abuse.
The nature of sexual abuse makes it difficult to observe and therefore often more difficult to report. The guidelines given here for detection of sexual abuse are by no means comprehensive. Symptoms given here may exist singly or in various combinations. It is essential to remember that this form of abuse makes the child both a victim and prisoner. Those children who seek help are often accused of lying, as adults usually do not want to believe them.
In addition, the victim of sexual abuse is most often pressured into secrecy about the sexual activity by the abuser, leaving the child feeling helpless and guilty for his behavior with no place to turn for help and no acceptable way out.
Sexual abuse should be suspected if: