May 2013

How to tell if a child has been abused

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
Abused children often display behavioural, physical and emotional signs of abuse. Child Welfare South Africa identified a few indicators and signs that could indicate that child that is being abused. The child needs to be assessed by a professional and an investigation must be done looking at all factors.
Physical signs
  • The most obvious signs to show that a child suffers abuse are physical signs such as marks on the body, bruises, cuts or burns.
  • A child may also have difficulty walking, sitting or performing other simple tasks due to soreness.
  • Weight loss may also be a sign of neglect. However, an overweight child may be overeating due to emotional problems or to hide the pain.
Emotional signs

Emotional signs of abuse may be evident in the personality of the child. These include:

  • Distrust, excessive efforts to please, shyness or introversion (e.g. playing alone).
  • Excessive fighting, being extremely withdrawn or bullying others.
  • Behaviour that is attention seeking, such as crying excessively or inappropriately.
  • Not getting along with others.
  • Being tired often or having frequent nightmares.
  • Drug abuse or addiction in the child or parent.
  • Missing school, failing grades or underachieving
  • Self–destructive behaviour, such as suicide attempts or self- mutilation.
Safety and Security
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