Children and Teens Program
HOW CAN I TELL IF A CHILD IS BEING PHYSICALLY ABUSED?
Unlike sexual abuse, physical abuse is most often indicated by obvious signs of physical injuries:
Unexplained Bruises and Welts:
- on the face, lips and mouth.
- in various states of healing (bruises of different colors, for example, or old and new scars together).
- on large areas of the torso, back, buttocks or thighs.
- in clusters, forming regular patterns, or reflective of the article used to inflict them (electrical cord; belt buckle).
- on several different surface areas (indicating the child has been hit from different directions).
- appearing as identical marks on both sides of the body.
Unexplained Burns, including:
- cigar or cigarette burns, especially on the soles of the feet, palms, back or buttocks.
- immersion or "wet" burns, including glove- or sock-like burns and doughnut-shaped burns on the buttocks or genitalia.
- patterned or "dry" burns which show a clearly defined mark left by the instrument used to inflict them (e.g. electrical burner).
- rope burns on the arms, legs, neck or torso.
- to the skull, nose or facial feature.
- in various stages of healing (indicating they occurred at different times).
- multiple or spiral fractures.
- swollen or tender limbs.
- any fracture in a child under the age of two.
- Unexplained Lacerations and Abrasions, including:
- to the mouth, lips, gums or eyes.
- to the external genitalia.
- on the backs of the arms, legs or torso.
Unexplained Abdominal Injuries, including:
- swelling of the abdomen.
- localized tenderness.
- constant vomiting.
Human Bite Marks (especially when they appear adult size or are recurrent)
Bald Spots and Scalp Bruises (caused by hair pulling)
Behavioral indicators may also alert a person to the possibility of physical abuse. These
behaviors may exist independently or in conjunction with physical indicators.
A physically abused child may:
- be wary of physical contact with adults (avoid or shrink away from any adult's touch).
- display extreme behavior (extreme aggressiveness or extreme withdrawal).
- fear his/her parents.
- fear going home, or cry when it is time to leave a protected environment.
- report injuries.
- seem anxious to please and to let others say and do things to him/her without protest.
- frequently be late or absent from school.
- consistently arrive early to school or stay long after it is time to go home.
- wear extra clothing to conceal injuries.
- give unbelievable explanations for his/her injuries or claim no knowledge of the source of injuries.
- seek more than an average amount of affection from other adults.
- exhibit habit disorders (sucking, rocking, biting or eating disorders).
- have lags in emotional and intellectual development.
A physically abusive parent or caretaker may:
- use harsh discipline which does not fit the "offense" or the age of the child.
- complain that the child cries too much or "causes trouble."
- be angry or defensive when asked about problems concerning the child, or appear uninterested and unconcerned.
- offer illogical or unconvincing explanations for a child's injuries.
- appear cold or unloving toward the child.
- misuse drugs or alcohol.
- believe in harsh, physical discipline as the only way to control the child.
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