When you have concerns for a child's well-being, the indicators listed below may help guide you in your thought process. Many of these "symptoms" or "signs" could be caused by things other than abuse or neglect. Generally, these indicators do indicate that a child's safety may be at risk and, at the very least, the situation should be assessed by a professional who is able to determine the causes of these symptoms and offer the help and assistance necessary to reduce the risk to a child.
Possible Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Torn, stained or bloody underclothes.
- Frequent, unexplained sore throats, yeast or urinary infections.
- Somatic complaints, including pain and irritation of the genitals.
- Sexually transmitted diseases.
- Bruises or bleeding from external genitalia, vagina or anal region.
- The victim's disclosure of sexual abuse.
- Regressive behaviors (thumb-sucking, bedwetting, fear of the dark).
- Promiscuity or seductive behaviors.
- Disturbed sleep patterns (recurrent nightmares).
- Unusual and age-inappropriate interest in sexual matters.
- Avoidance of undressing or wearing extra layers of clothes.
- Sudden decline in school performance, truancy.
- Difficulty in walking or sitting.
Possible Signs of Emotional Abuse
- Eating disorders, including obesity or anorexia.
- Speech disorders (stuttering, stammering).
- Developmental delays in the acquisition of speech or motor skills.
- Weight or height level substantially below norm.
- Flat or bald spots on head (infants).
- Nervous disorders (rashes, hives, facial tics, stomach aches).
- Habit disorders (biting, rocking, head-banging).
- Cruel behavior, seeming to get pleasure from hurting children, adults or animals; seeming to get pleasure from being mistreated.
- Age-inappropriate behaviors (bedwetting, wetting, soiling).
- Behavioral extremes, such as overly compliant-demanding; withdrawn-aggressive; listless-excitable.
Possible Signs of Neglect
- Poor hygiene, including lice, scabies, severe or untreated diaper rash, bedsores, body odor.
- Unsuitable clothing; missing key articles of clothing (underwear, socks, shoes); overdressed or underdressed for climate conditions.
- Untreated injury or illness.
- Lack of immunizations.
- Indicators of prolonged exposure to elements (excessive sunburn, insect bites, colds).
- Height and weight significantly below age level.
- Unusual school attendance.
- Chronic absenteeism.
- Chronic hunger, tiredness, or lethargy.
- Begging for or collecting leftovers.
- Assuming adult responsibilities.
- Reporting no caretaker at home.