Stopping child abuse, sexual assault, and neglect starts with you. If you recognize any signs of abuse in children around you, it is up to you to say something and help stop the abuse. You might be the only one who notices. It is important to remember that not all children will show the same signs of abuse, but there are a few common signs many children present.
Here are 10 common signs of child abuse:
- Unexplained injuries: Children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse may have unexplained injuries. You may see burns or bruises in the shape of objects. Often children may have unconvincing explanations of their injuries.
- Changes in behavior: All forms of abuse can lead to various changes in a child’s behavior. You may notice they appear scared, act out more often, or seem anxious, depressed, or more aggressive. Pay attention to the behavior patterns in the children around you.
- Reverting to childhood behaviors: Abused children will often revert to behaviors of a young child, including actions such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, or fear of the dark. In some children, it can even include language and memory problems.
- Changes in eating and sleeping: Stress, fear, and anxiety can all lead to different patterns in eating and sleeping. Some children may eat more, while others may experience weight loss. Often children have trouble sleeping, leading to fatigue.
- Changes in school performance and attendance: Children experiencing abuse may have difficulty paying attention in school, leading to a drop in their performance. An increased rate of absences is common, sometimes due to adults trying to hide a child’s abuse injury.
- Lack of personal care and hygiene: Abused and neglected children often appear uncared for, this may include appearing consistently dirty, having severe body odor, or not having sufficient clothing.
- Risky behaviors: Some young people who experience abuse, present higher rates of partaking in risky behaviors. These may include, use of drugs and alcohol, carrying weapons, or breaking the law.
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors: Children who have been sexually abused may become overly sexual at a young age or use explicit sexual language.
- Fear of going home: Victims of abuse often have stress and anxiety about going home. They often want to stay at school and are apprehensive about going places with the abuser.
- Extreme behaviors: This is especially apparent in children who experience emotional maltreatment, but can occur in all abuse cases. These children may be overly compliant or demanding, or extremely aggressive or passive.