Signs Of Abuse

An Abused Child could be standing next to you, your neighbor, best friend or even your own child.
Here is a list to help see the signs of abuse in another, or maybe in yourself.


Emotional abuse refers to belittling, rejecting, and in general not providing a positive, loving, emotional atmosphere in which the child can grow.

Indicators of emotional abuse:

* inappropriate affect such as turning negatives into jokes, or laughing when in pain.

* extremes in behavior - overly happy or affectionate.

* withdrawal - or no verbal or physical communication with others.

* bizarre behavior such as self-destruction.

* destructive behavior.

* inordinate attention to details.

* cruelty, vandalism, stealing, cheating.

* rocking, thumbsucking, enuresis, or other habitual problems.

* substance abuse (drugs or alcohol).

* anorexia nervosa (especialy in adolescents).

* physical manifestations such as asthma, ulcers, or severe allergies.

* delinquent behavior (especially in adolescents).


Indicators of sexual abuse:

* frequent urinary infections.

* an inordinate number of gifts, or money from a questionable source.

* exceptional secrecy.

* more sexual knowledge than is appropriate for the child’s age (especially younger children).

* in-depth sexual play with peers.

* overcompliance or withdrawal.

* overaggressiveness, acting out.

* sexually provocative or promiscuous behavior (in adolescents) or otherwise acting out sexually.

* an inordinate fear of males or seductiveness towards males.

* a drop in school performance or sudden nonparticipation in school activities.

* sleep problems such as nightmares or insomnia.

* crying without provocation.

* rashes or itching in genital areas, scratching the area a great deal or figeting when seated.

* sudden onset of enuresis (wetting pants or bed) or soiling.

* sudden phobic behavior.

* symptoms associated with venereal disease, such as - vaginal pain, vaginal or penile discharge (in young children), genital or oral sores, frequent sore throats (may indicate gonococcal infection of the pharynx or throat).

* diagnosis of genital warts.

* feelings of little self-worth, talk of being “damaged”.

* pain in genital area (which may be from lacerations).

* excessive bathing.

* frequent vomiting.

* excessive masturbation.

* appearing much older or more worldly than peers.

* great anxiety.

* suicide attempts (especialy among adolescents).

* runaway from home, excessively (especialy adolescents).

* early pregnancies (in adolescents).

Physical abuse refers to a nonaccidental physical injury to a child.

Indicators of physical abuse:

*extensive bruises, especialy numerous bruises of different colors, indicating various stages of healing (strange bruises are always possible in normal activities; it is their frequency that arouses suspician of abuse) Ages of bruises can be approximately detected by the following colors:
Immediate-few hours = red 6-12 hours = blue 12-24 hours = black-purple 4-6 days = green tint, dark 5-10 days = pale green to yellow

*burns of all types (although burns may also be accidental), but especialy glove-like burns, which indicate that the hand has been immersed in hot liquid; burns that are more intense in the middle and radiate from there, which would indicate that hot liquid has been poured onto the skin; cigarette burns; burns in the shape of an object such as a poker , an iron.

*bruises in specific shapes such as handprints, hanger marks.

* frequent complaints of soreness or awkward movements, as if caused by pain.

* marks that indicate hard blows from an object such as an electrical cord or other whiplike object that could make a burn around the body.

* bruises on multiple parts of the body indicating blows from different directions.

* unexplained abdominal swelling (may be caused by internal bleeding)

* extreme sensitivity to pain.

* frequent bruises around the head or face (the area of other bruises may be important - knees and elbows , for example, are especialy vulnerable in normal falls; bruises to the abdomen or midway between the wrists and elbow may be more unlikely in normal activities).

* bald spots indicative of severe hair pulling.

Behavioral symptoms that may be indicative of physical abuse:

* overcompliance.

* withdrawal, perpetual sleepiness.

* acting out, aggressive disruptive behavior.

* destructiveness to self and others.

* coming to school too early or leaving late - a clear indicator of fear of going home.

* cheating, stealing, or lying (this may be related to too high expectations at home).

* accident proneness.

* fearfulness (the child may assume that adults hurt and is constantly on guard).

* low achievement (in order to learn, children must convert aggressive energy into learning; children who are either overly aggressive or lacking in energy may have little or no energy for learning).

* inability to form good peer relationships (many abusive paretns prohibit their child from seeking out friends, perhaps because of fear of exposure).

* wearing clothing that covers the body and that may be inappropriate for warm months.

* dislike of or shrinking from physical contact (the child may not tolerate physical praise such as a pat on the back).

* regressiveness, exhibiting less mature behavior.

Behavioral symptoms for adolescents indicative of physical abuse:

* overreact to being touched in any way (react with fear or aggression).

* seem to provoke encounters of abusive treatment from adults as well as from their peers.

* demonstrate extremes in behavior -either great hostility and aggressiveness or withdrawal.

* exhibit assaultive, aggressive, or pugnacious behavior.

* appear to be overly frightened from parents.

* act out continually or are described as incorrigible.


Physical neglect refers to the failure on the part of the caretaker to meet the child’s basic physical needs.

Indications of physical neglect:

* may appear in soiled clothing, significantly too small or too large and often in need of repair. * always seem to be hungry, hoarding or stealing food but not coming to school with little of their own. * may appear listless and tired.

* often report caring for younger siblings, when the child caretaker may be only 5,6,7, or 8.

* demonstrate poor hygiene, may smell of urine, or have bad breath or dirty teeth.

* have unattended medical or dental problems such as infected sores or badly decayed or abscessed teeth.

* may have lice.

* may exhibit stealing, vandalism, or other delinquent behavior.

* may have frequent school absences or tardiness.

* have poor peer relationships, perhaps because of heygienic problems or a depressed, negative attitude.

* may be withdrawn.

* may crave affection, even eliciting negative responses to accomplish it.

* may be destructive or pugnacious, showing no apparent guilt over their acts.

* may be inadequately dressed for the weather.

* may be emaciated or may have distended stomachs indicative of malnutrition.