There are silent warning signs of child abuse that you can take note of. Learn to recognize the signs and what to do about it here:
While I pray your child has not experienced abuse at the hands of anyone, I still think it’s important we recognize the signs.
We can and should remain switched on to changes in our children’s behavior. We should also be 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 have been watching.
We can all learn the signs and cue into the warning tells. Let’s start here:
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 may include:
According to Tip Sheet, these symptoms may also occur during times in a Childs life. Times such as 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 may be:
- Your child develops a fear of certain people, situations, or places | If your child suddenly is terrified to see certain people, this is a sign. If they are afraid to 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. 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. 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.
Thank you so much for your focus on child abuse prevention this month. I work in that field, and educating the community is one of our toughest battles.
Rachel Norman says
Amy, I only hope my research is doing it justice. It is SO CLOSE to my heart!
I found this on Pinterest. Thank you for addressing this. I’ve worked to educate others for a long time. It’s comforting to see others doing the same.
Rachel Norman says
Maria, thanks for your encouragement and yes I completely agree. Though I’ve not been personally affected, it’s an area so close to my heart!
My child displayed very different signs than what you have called out. More physical displays, and I took her to the Doctor, who said, was normal but to correct and redirect. Much to my horror, she tried to kill herself in 3rd grade, after watching a PSA from Mariska Hartigay, on Insest. Only then did I learn of the trauma she experienced at the hands of a family member, a girl cousin and her friends. She was only 5 when it started and it continued daily for years, until we moved out of state. Abusers look like family. Say and do anything to victims to keep their secret. Yes I reported it. Does not change a thing.
Rachel Norman says
Oh my heart breaks for your darling girl. I am so sorry that she went through that at the hands of such evil and perversity and pray she finds healing as you go with her through that gut wrenching pain. I hear her story and am so grieved for you all.
What r warning signs for children to young to talk? And how do you ask them if they dont understand?
Rachel Norman says
This is tricky, TAbitha, if you think your child has been abused I’d seriously consider finding some type of counselor who specializes in this that may be able to draw it out!
Look at their drawings, especially when they are very young. Strange images of a adult with very large hands, or a mouth with sharp teeth, or missing arms, any depiction of symbolic genitals, pronounced use of red and black ( anger, trauma) missing eyes or hands ( helplessness), a child floating off the ground- pay attention and ask them about their drawing. Don’t dismiss or try to reframe ( you must have seen this on tv)- let them tell you and pay attention
As a mandated reporter because I volunteer with kids, these are good pointers. I would only add, you do NOT need to ask them questions or draw it out of them. If you suspect abuse for any reason – call and report your observations. An investigator will be assigned to get to the bottom of things. It’s not necessarily up to you to get the details. There are trained professionals that know how to ask questions in an open, safe way that does not “lead.” I guess what I’m saying is don’t wait to get more information. Act right away.
Rachel Norman says
Katie, that’s a GREAT reminder and excellent feedback. Instead of trying to draw things out and possibly muddy the waters, simply call it in! Thanks for sharing here :)
karen natale says
My grandson told me his father sexually abused him I called the cops and protective services he didn’t tell anyone else now his father has custody in broken hearted