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Child Abuse Signs: Neglect, Physical, Sexual & Emotional Abuse

How to spot child abuse: know the signs

Keep our children safe. Know the signs of child abuse. Knowledge and awareness of these signs are an important part of being a community member because sometimes a child’s best hope of rescue from abuse is from the help of friends and community members. Knowing these telltale signs and acting on them can save a child from a life of trauma, or even death.

Types of Child Abuse

There are four different kinds of child abuse: Neglect, Physical, Sexual, and Emotional abuse.

Neglect: Children, as all of us, have basic needs such as the need for food, shelter, and clothing. Just beyond that, children need education, safety, medical care and proper nourishment if they are to flourish and grow physically, emotionally and mentally. Neglect is the failure to provide a child with these basic needs.

Physical: Occurs when one harms a child in a physical manner. This includes failing to provide or witholding proper medical care for injured or sick children.

Sexual: Indecent exposure, fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, sodomy, rape, incest and exploitation via pornographic materials and/or prostitution.

Emotional: In addition to food, shelter and clothing, children need love to flourish. Emotional abuse occurs when children are psychologically damaged by such things as rejection, insults, threats, ignoring, extreme punishment, fear, and isolation, or anything that hinders positive social, mental, and emotional development.

Know the Signs

No two cases are exactly the same and all suspected cases of child abuse should considered on an individual basis, taking into account the specifics of each situation. Therefore, the following list is not complete and can not be complete. If you suspect child abuse, look for patterns, consistencies or a combination of signs. A single factor may not indicate abuse. Here are the most common characteristics displayed by children suffering from abuse or neglect:


* Recurrent bruising, injuries, burns.
* Injuries in the shape of an object (belt buckle,etc).
* Infections indicating delay or neglect of treatment.
* Injuries may be in various stages of healing.
* Lack of hygiene and grooming.
* Soiled clothes, lack of appropriate seasonal wear.


* Sudden change in behavior or school performance.
* Overly compliant, passive, timid, withdrawn.
* Delays going home from school or functions.
* Excuses for injuries that do not seem consistent or believable.
* Frequent absences from or lateness to school.
* Difficulty concentrating, depression.
* Self-destructive/self-abusive behavior.

Sexual Abuse

* Difficulty sitting or walking.
* Bloodied underwear.
* Genital bruising/tearing.
* Knowledge of a sexual nature inconsistent with age.
* An older child behaving like a younger child (such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking)
* Has new words for private body parts.
* Resists removing clothes when appropriate times (bath, bed, toileting, diapering).
* Asks other children to behave sexually or play sexual games.
* Mimics adult-like sexual behaviors with toys or stuffed animal.
* Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training.


* Excessive shyness
* Fearful
* Afraid of doing something wrong
* Exhibits behavioral extremes
* Inappropriate behavior such as age inappropriate behavior

Reporting Child Abuse

If you suspect or know a child is being abused, notify a social worker, your local police department, or call 1-800-4-A-Child.

Florida child abuse law

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