Here are the silent warning signs of child abuse that you can notice in others. It includes drawing and behavior changes and other things.
- Part 1: What Child Abusers Actually Look Like
- Part 2: How Child Abusers Gain Access and How to Safeguard Your Children
- Part 3: Signs Sexual Abuse Has Occurred in a Child and What To Do About It
While I pray your child has not experienced abuse at the hands of anyone, I still think it’s important we recognize the signs.
This way we can remain switched on to changes in our children’s behavior as well as being able to recognize it in others. Because I’m passionate about protecting children, I’m actually vigilant in watching for signs in other children I know.
I have a personal friend who was abused by someone in his own family until one of his friends noticed, told her parents, and the parents questioned him point blank.
Until that point, he’d been abused in silence.
Since then, I am watching.
Behavioral Signs Child Abuse Has Occurred
If a child exhibits one of these signs that does not mean abuse has occurred. However, if they begin to exhibit quite a few of these it is likely time to see help.
Specific signs a child may have been abused
According to Tip Sheet, these symptoms may also occur during times of divorce, death of a family member, trauma at home or school, or problems with friends.
- Sudden changes in eating habits | When a child stops eating, loses their appetite, or begins overeating this is often a sign of a traumatic event.
- Has new words for body parts | If your child refers to body parts in words other than what the family uses, start asking questions.
- Starts exhibiting mood swings | Children may start acting uncharacteristically anxious, angry, aggressive, or begin withdrawing.
- Begins seeing (or even drawing) sexual images | Kids may begin having nightmares or even drawing images that are clearly sexual in nature.
- Suddenly resists removing or changing clothes during appropriate times | Is now sensitive to even mother or father removing clothes for reasons like bath time, diaper change, or the toilet. (source)
More signs abuse may have occurred
- Your child develops a fear of certain people, situations, or places | If your child suddenly is terrified to see certain people, go to certain locations, or engage in certain activities start asking questions (source)
- The child starts having sleeping issues | Sleep disturbances are a common symptom of trauma of any kind, so when sleep becomes extremely difficult, this is a warning sing.
- A child starts talking about a new (older) friend | Even if the child is not telling you something has occurred, bringing up the friend could be their way of trying to reveal the issue to you.
- There is regression to younger behaviors | Again, a symptom of trauma in general.
- Self-harming behaviors | If you notice your child is engaging in self-harming behaviors such as cutting, burning, pulling hair, or other harmful activities this is a major red flag.
Questions to ask kids if you think they may have been abused
But it may not always be obvious, here are some questions you can ask to draw out a response.
- Are there situations where you don’t feel safe?
- Has anyone ever asked to touch your (specific body part)?
- Do you feel safe (in specific location)?
Here are some more questions and an interesting perspective on how good parents can miss abuse.
What To Do If You Suspect Child Abuse In Someone You Know
Here are a few things you can do to begin to draw out the potential abuse and report it to the proper authorities.
- Find a safe place and time to ask your child questions | Use a calm tone so the child does not feel like he or she is in trouble. Don’t attach judgment or emotion to your questions, but speak at their level. “Has someone touched you [here]?”
- Reassure your child they are not in trouble | Children may have been threatened to keep secret and now feel confusion and fear. Be careful to comfort them and let them know they are not at fault.
Other ways to support a child you fear may have been abused
- Inform the child, if appropriate | You may want to explain to the child (if they are not your own) that you are going to call in the authorities, but do not ask their permission. You are, now, in a position to try and protect them. Help find a safe place for the child if they are worried.
- Report it | Call Child Protective Services or your local law enforcement to report the crime. You can also call the Child National Abuse Hotline.
- Find support | If your child has been the victim of abuse, seek counseling with an experienced counselor. If not, work with that family (or alone if they are not cooperative) to get the child the help they need.