Identify Signs of Child Abuse

Identify signs of Abuse

Physical Abuse

Physical Indicators

  • Bruises and Welts
  • Lacerations and Abrasions
  • Burns and Scalds
  • Fractures
  • Internal Injuries
  • Rain/ head injuries
  • Abdominal injuries
  • Fabricated or induced illnesses, including Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy
  • Poisoning
  • Hair loss by pulling or burning
  • Drowning
  • Cot death

Sexual Abuse

Physical indicators

  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Complaints of pain, swelling or itching in the genital area
  • Complaints of pain on urination
  • Bruises, bleeding, or lacerations in external genitalia, vaginal or anal area, mouth or throat
  • Vaginal/ penile discharge
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Early adolescent pregnancy

Behavioral indicators

  • Appetite disturbance
  • Sexual exploitation of other young children
  • Poor peer relationship
  • Unwilling to participate in physical activities
  • Behaviour disturbance (anorexia nervosa, obesity, self-mutilation, run away, suicide, promiscuity, drug abuse)
  • Sexual knowledge or behaviour that is abnormally advanced for the respective age of the child
  • Marked change in academic performance
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Excessive reaction to being touched
  • Intense disgust for being left somewhere or with someone


Physical Indicators

  • Malnutrition, under-weight, or lacking enough quantity and/or quality of food
  • Delayed development
  • Severe rash or skin disorder
  • Left in care of inappropriate carer (e.g. young child)
  • Inadequately supervised for long periods or when engaged in dangerous activities
  • Unattended physical problems or unmet medical/ dental needs
  • Chronically dirty/ unkempt
  • Habitual absence from school or deprivation of schooling
  • Spoiled food found at home
  • Insanitary living conditions (garbage, excretion, dirt, etc)
  • Young child unattended for long periods
  • Abandoned: totally or for long periods of time
  • Child confined at home

Behavioural Indicators

  • Persistent complaints of hunger or rummaging for food, overtly aggressive eating habit or begs for/ steals food
  • Assumes responsibilities inappropriate to age
  • Addiction
  • Delinquency
  • Complaints of inadequate care, supervision or nurturing
  • Being made to work excessive hours/ beyond physical ability
  • Poor peer relationship
  • Responds to questions in monosyllables
  • Extreme apprehension
  • Sexual activity caused by inadequate supervision
  • Reluctant to return home
  • Run away from home

Psychological Abuse

Physical Indicators

  • Failure to thrive
  • Developmental delay e.g. speech disorder
  • Anorexia nervosa

Behavioral Indicators

  • Indicators in Child
    • Alienation
    • Habit disorder
    • Wetting/ soiling
    • Learning disorder e.g. marked deterioration in academic performance
    • Lags in mental, emotional, social development
    • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts/ attempts
    • Disruptive behaviour or conduct problems
    • Sleep disturbance
    • Appetite disturbance
    • Speech impediment
  • Indicators in Family
    • Rejection
    • Constant scolding
    • Humiliating criticism
    • Inducing fear
    • Encouraging deviant behavior
    • Bizarre punishment

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    Plan Child Safeguarding will regularly share articles and tips on protecting children from families, schools, institutions and others.
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