Even with three million child abuse cases reported in the United States every year, authorities indicate that the actual number of child abuse, neglect and emotional mistreatment could be three times higher. An abused child will not openly talk about the violence due to fear. Recognizing the signs based on both physical and behavioral changes will prevent further abuse to the child.
- Watch for withdrawn behavior, a fear of being touched, a reluctance to change clothes for gym class and a lack of cooperation during a physical examination.
- Check for aggressive behavior, advanced knowledge about sex that is inappropriate for their age and usage of sexual terminology in casual conversation.
- Notice if the child has difficulty walking or sitting or complains of soreness or bleeding from the vagina or rectum. Also watch for signs of redness, irritation, bruising or discharge from the genitals.
- Monitor the child for a decrease in appetite, fear of darkness or being alone, nightmares and bed wetting. The child may express fear towards a particular adult or a certain place.
- Be wary of bruises that are not common with childhood injuries like black eyes, burns or facial fractures. The appearance of the injury may hint at the shape of the article used in the abuse or grab marks on the skin.
- Observe inappropriate clothing, such as long sleeves or sweaters in odd seasons, used to conceal injuries.
- Monitor the child for behavioral changes such as fear to go home, withdrawal from peers and extreme mood changes.