Signs of Child Abuse

April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month. Here are some signs that a child is being abused.


Signs of Physical Abuse

  • Unexplained changes in the child’s body or behavior

  • Injuries (bruise, burns, scratches etc.) that cannot be explained

  • “On alert” behavior, like if the child is waiting for something bad to happen

  • Shying away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home

  • Appears to be afraid of adults

Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Changes in behavior 

  • Speech disorders

  • Developmental delays

  • Lack of attachment to the parent

  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong

  • Acts like an adult (taking care of other children) or acting like a young child (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantrums)

  • Aggressive behavior

Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Extreme sexual behavior that seems inappropriate for the child’s age

  • Sexual acting out on other children

  • Genital pain, itching, swelling or bleeding, as well as a sexually transmitted disease

  • Refusal to change for physical activities (e.g. P.E. class) or refusal to participate in physical activities

  • Fear of being alone with adults, especially of a particular gender

  • Suicide attempts

  • Trouble walking or sitting

  • Nightmares or bedwetting

  • Sudden changes in appetite

  • Fear of a particular person or family member


  • Frequently absent from school

  • Stealing food or money

  • Poor hygiene

  • Lack of appropriate clothing for weather or season

  • Frequently unsupervised, left alone, or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments

  • Lacks needed medical or dental care


If you know a child that shows any of these signs, contact police or child services immediately.