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Identifying Abuse

Sometimes children don't tell us they are in crisis, they show us. Although behavior changes can be due to a variety of reasons, sometimes they represent the result of stress from being abused. Adults who are alert to these changes can often intervene in abuse situations.

Keep in mind that some clues may be normal behaviors for a given child at a given time. Therefore, it is important to be aware of new behaviors, extreme behaviors or combinations of C:\Documents and Settings\Jeannette\My Documents\My Pictures\childrens pictures\girl by window.jpgthe following characteristics:

Abused Children Are Often
  • fearful of interpersonal relationships or overly compliant
  • withdrawn or aggressive, hyperactive
  • constantly irritable or listless, detached
  • affectionless or overly affectionate (misconstrued as seductive)

Physical Symptoms

  • bruises, burns, scars, welts, broken bones, continuing or inexplicable injuries
  • urinary infections (particularly in young children)
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • chronic ailments, stomach aches, vomiting, eating disorders
  • vaginal or anal soreness, bleeding, or itching

Activity and Habit Clues

  • nightmares
  • inappropriate masturbation
  • C:\Documents and Settings\Jeannette\My Documents\My Pictures\childrens pictures\boy in shadow.jpgfear of going home or to some other location
  • fear of being with a particular person
  • running away
  • delinquency
  • lying
  • prostitution

Age Inappropriate Behavior

  • thumb sucking
  • sexual activity or awareness
  • promiscuity
  • bed wetting
  • alcohol/substance abuse
  • assaulting younger children
  • taking on adult responsibilities

Educational Concerns

  • extreme curiosity, imagination
  • academic failure
  • sleeping in class
  • inability to concentrate

Emotional Indicators

  • depression
  • phobias, fear of darkness, public restrooms, etc.
  • chronic ailments
  • self-inflicted injuries/injuring/killing animals
  • fire setting
  • excessive fearfulness
  • lack of spontaneity, creativity




1995 by the International Center for Assault Prevention.

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