How to Recognize Child Abuse
While many people are aware that child abuse is a horrific act, no matter what its type, many are afraid to report the incident. There are some that believe that they may be overstepping their bounds and reading too far into something. However, reporting child abuse, whether it leads to an arrest or simply alerts officials to further investigation, could very well save a life. If you have a suspicion that a child is being abused, consider the following signs:
Signs of Emotional Abuse
- The child’s parent or guardians constantly berates, threatens, demeans, criticizes, or rejects the child with very little show of love or support.
- Extreme fluctuations in weight, such as an appearance of an eating disorder or onset of obesity.
- Nervous habit disorders, e.g. facial tics, extreme anxiety, rashes, rocking, nail biting, etc.
- Delays in age development, i.e. slower learning than peers.
- Extreme behaviors, e.g. aggressive behavior, being overtly compliant or withdrawn, apathetic, etc.
Signs of Physical Abuse
- The child has physical injuries that are unexplained such as welts, broken burns, bruises, etc.
- Delayed treatment in regards to physical injuries.
- The child indicates physical injury by their parent or guardian.
- The child showcases a fear of their parent or guardian, i.e. afraid to come when called, or to go home.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Complaints of improper touching or general pain in the genital or rectal areas.
- Evidence of trauma in the genital or anal region, such as bleeding or bruising or a sexually transmitted disease.
- Child has difficulty walking or sitting.
- The child has strong sexual behavior knowledge, e.g. advanced knowledge of sex, touching their and/or another child’s body inappropriately, masturbates excessively, etc.
- Changes in general behavior such as trouble sleeping, acting younger than given age, fearful of specific people or places, aggressive behavior, etc.
According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services, neglect is largely defined as the failure to “provide child’s basic needs.” This not only includes food and water, but also shelter, medical care, proper vision, and basic medical care. General signs of neglect are:
- Constant hunger with physical signs of need, e.g. begging for food, swallow skin, protruding bones, etc.
- Poor hygiene, e.g. dirty skin, matted hair, lice, etc.
- The child has continued medical problems that are easily preventable.
- The child is typically without supervision.
If you suspect that a child that has possibly been abused the first step is to remain calm, and let the child know that there is an open line of communication between yourself and them. You essentially want the child to feel safe and secure in your role as an ally. Once you have gathered the necessary information, contact your local child protective agency, in Texas, that is Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
In addition, you may also get in touch with a victim’s advocacy group such as Safe Horizons, or a local agency.
Once you are in contact, relay as much information as you possibly can including dates, times, locations, your role in the child’s life, and so forth.
Baumgartner Law Firm
6711 Cypress Creek Pkwy
Houston, TX 77069