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How to Recognize a Child Who Is Being Abused or Maltreated

When any child is intentionally harmed or mistreated, it is considered to be child abuse. It can come in different forms which are; physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. You need to know what they are and how to recognize if any child is being abused. Here is an explanation of the different kinds of abuse. 

  • Physical abuse where the child is intentionally injured or put at risk of physical harm.
  • Sexual abuse is where the child is touched by an adult in a sexual way. It also includes exploiting or exposing the child to any sexual parts or content like pornography.
  • Emotional abuse is where the child’s emotional well-being is injured through verbal or non-verbal ways. 
  • Neglect is where a child is denied basic things by the caregiver.

Children rarely come forward to say they are being abused. It is up to you to look for the signs and report them to the authorities who will investigate further. A simple phone call might not take a lot of time but can make a difference for the child. Abused children often feel guilty and ashamed and blame themselves for the abuse. This makes them more likely to avoid telling others of their plight.

By noticing the signs, you can know if the child is being abused. However, some signs are present in children with psychological issues or children who are acting out due to various reasons.

  • Anti-social behavior and staying by themselves. The child can become claustrophobic if they are locked in the closet as a punishment. 
  • Behavioral changes where the child might show increased aggression. Rebellious behavior, or become hostile to others.
  • The child might get overly anxious and can suffer from depression. Outspoken children lose their confidence abruptly.
  • Physical marks and bruises or fading marks if school has been closed for a while.
  • The child does not want to go to the place where the abuse takes place. The child can cry and throw tantrums in protest. 
  • The child does not want to associate with certain individuals or a certain gender. They become anxious and look frightened when the person is around.
  • If it is a case of sexual abuse, you can find the child having too much sexual knowledge for their age. 
  • The child might be on the defensive and flinch when they see someone approach or try to touch them. 
  • The child might start dressing awkwardly. They might start wearing clothes that cover the body even when it is hot so as to cover any marks or injuries.
  • The child can say they are being abused to the person they trust.
  • The child not getting what they need and being left by themselves for long periods of time. 
  • The child constantly being in a place where they are at risk of danger.
  • If the parent is the abuser, the child has a poor relationship with them.

Other than looking for signs on children, you can get more information on red flags in adults in this post including the following. 

  • They are excessively harsh when dealing with the child.
  • They do not have clear rules for the child and are unpredictable.
  • They do not have patience when dealing with the child. Instead, they lash out and blame the child.
  • They do not teach the child how to act but instead use fear and intimidation to control the child.
  • They segregate the child and limit the child’s interaction with others probably to prevent the child from exposing them.
  • They do not address the child’s immediate needs.

What can you do to help?

If you suspect that a child is being abused, you need to report it to the authorities.  Reporting will get the child the help they need. They will get counselling and medical treatment and will be put in a safe environment.

If it is your child, you need to find the source of the problem. Also, avoid places or people your child is uncomfortable around. You might need to change the babysitter and daycare. Observe the paintings a child makes if they are young, they reveal their feelings through their drawings. Give the child a comfortable environment so they can talk to you. Taking care of your child is your responsibility as a parent.


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