Signs of Abuse in a Child
Many different types of abuse can be inflicted on a child; however, certain red flags could indicate that the child is being abused. One sign would be unexplainable bruising or other physical injuries. Another sign could be that the child is no longer going to school regularly. It may also be evident that the child has inappropriately advanced knowledge of sexual acts and even has sexually transmitted diseases, or that they seem withdrawn and self-destructive. If a parent reports that their child presents with these signs, it would indicate that they are at high risk for abuse and should seek medical attention.
Child abuse is a serious issue that affects children all over the world. According to Statista, there are about 656,243 reported victims of child abuse in the United States alone! This number does not include unreported cases. According to Childhelp, “the darkest day for abused kids is still today.” For this reason, I think it is important to continue to raise awareness so that children have a voice and those accused of child abuse are held responsible.
Six categories of Child abuse
According to Childhelp, there are 6 main categories of child abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional maltreatment, exploitation, and “other.”
Physical abuse is the most common form of child abuse, and many physical injuries can be seen easily. According to Childhelp, “Children may have unexplained burns, bite marks, bruises, broken bones or black eyes.” However, a parent might put a band-aid on the injury to not draw attention from other people. In these cases, it is important to pay close attention to the child and any sudden changes in behavior. Physical abuse can cause lifelong problems such as depression, anxiety and even suicide.
According to Stop It Now! There are four subcategories under physical abuse. These are:
- Punching, slapping or other violent acts
- Burning or scalding
- Biting or fighting with another person to the point of drawing blood
- Using weapons when inflicting violence on others (guns, knives, broken glass) This category also includes killing pets in front of the children.
The term “sexual abuse” covers a variety of acts, including inappropriate touching, intercourse; incest; exposure to graphic sexual material; and involvement in prostitution. Sexual abuse is especially difficult to identify since it can include things that are not easily visible. For example, if a child does not want to go home or goes through changes in behavior after spending time with their family, this could be a warning sign.
Many parents who mistreat their children are themselves victims of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.” Neglect can occur when a parent is unable to provide for their child because of poverty, mental illness, substance abuse or imprisonment. “Neglected children are more likely than any other group of abused children to suffer severe and repeated harm” .
Emotional maltreatment is “the most challenging type of abuse to define”. This subcategory includes all types of mental suffering resulting from deliberate actions taken by parents or caregivers. Parents or caregivers often tell their children they are stupid, fat, ugly, worthless and helpless. They may also blame the child for problems/issues in the home. Parents may ignore the child or fail to give attention, love and affection.”
Exploitation refers to when a parent uses their child for financial gain. For example, they might make their children beg on the street or work in an abusive environment.
This category includes witnessing domestic violence, being bullied, or when an adult in the household is involved in illegal activities (e.g., selling drugs, conducting shady business deals).
What are the warning signs of child abuse?
When it comes to child abuse, it is difficult to detect the signs. However, some warning signs can act as red flags. Parents should be on the lookout if their child experiences these symptoms:
- Changes in the behaviour-for example, suddenly being less affectionate or more withdrawn;
- Sudden changes in eating habits or weight;
- Unexplained injuries such as cuts, burns and black eyes;
- Fear of going home- The child may begin to avoid certain people (like parents) or places (like the house). If you notice that your child is experiencing these symptoms, it is very crucial you talk to them about it. Some useful questions are: “Have you ever been touched in a way that made you feel uncomfortable?” ” Have you ever had someone try to touch you in a way that startled you?”
It is also important for parents to reassure the child that they are safe and that no one has the right to harm them. When talking to a child about abuse, it is best to use open-ended questions so that the child has room to share their experience.
How should a parent approach a child who has experienced child abuse?
When approaching a child who has experienced emotional abuse, parents should never accuse them of having made up the story. It is critical not to attack the youngster but rather to offer support and empathy.. Additionally, when talking with a child about their experience, it is best to be open-ended to make them feel safe in sharing their story
Parents must also console and reassure their children. Parents should emphasize that the abuse was not the child’s fault and that it was wrong no matter what.
What are the Effects of Child Abuse on a Person’s Physical, Emotional & Social Health?
The effects of child abuse are long-term. They have the potential to interfere with a person’s physical, emotional and social health throughout their life.
- Physical Effects: Child abuse can cause injuries such as bruises, broken bones or burns. Victims of child abuse are also more likely to suffer from obesity later in life ( University of South Carolina).
- Emotional Effects: Victims of emotional maltreatment often experience insecure relationships with their social groups. They might be depressed or feel worthless. Children who have been emotionally abused are also more likely to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
- Social Effects: Emotional abuse has been associated with suicidal tendencies in people as young as three years old. People who have experienced child abuse might also be more likely to engage in criminal behavior, drug abuse or illicit sex later in life.
How Can a Person Recover from Child Abuse?
Recovery is different for everyone. People who have experienced child abuse deal with this trauma in their own way and at their own pace. However, there are several things that people can do to help themselves stay healthy and heal:
- Do not blame yourself
- Get help from friends and family
- Practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress
- Seek therapy to cope with the trauma
- Share your story with other survivors in order to heal and gain support.
Read also: Child Abuse and how to prevent it
The signs of child abuse might be difficult to recognize, but they are there. Please inform the authorities immediately if you feel a child is being abused or neglected by their guardian or parents. It takes only one phone call to save someone’s life and give them back some hope for tomorrow! You can also reach out to us anytime if you need help identifying the warning signs of neglectful parenting practices in your own home so we can offer tips on how to move forward with more confidence. We love children and want nothing more than for them all to grow up feeling loved and cared about as they should!