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How Do I Recognize Abuse and Maltreatment?

Abuse means serious harm committed to children. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Abuse also includes situations where a parent or other person legally responsible knowingly allows someone else to inflict such harm on a child.

Maltreatment, which includes neglect, is when a child intentionally or unintentionally receives an inadequate quality of care in the areas of food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, or supervision. It also includes excessive corporal punishment, abandonment, or misusing alcohol or other drugs to the degree that the child was placed in danger. It is important to note that poverty or other financial inability to provide the above is not considered maltreatment.

The follow chart lists possible signs and symptoms of abuse to be alert to. Please contact CYS at any time if you have questions or concerns.

Possible Indicators of Physical Abuse:

  • Injuries to the eyes or both sides of the head or body (accidental injuries are typically to one side only).
  • Frequent injuries (bruises, cuts, and/or burns), especially if the child cannot explain the cause or the explanation does not make sense. Sometimes these injuries may appear in distinctive patterns, such as finger- or handprints, human bite marks, cigarette burns, or impressions of other instruments.
  • Destructive, aggressive, or disruptive behavior.
  • Passive, withdrawn, or emotionless behavior.
  • Fears of going home.
  • Fears of parents or other specific adults.

Possible Indicators of Sexual Abuse:

  • Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Injury to the genital area.
  • Difficulty and/or pain when sitting or walking.
  • Sexually suggestive, inappropriate, or promiscuous behavior or language.
  • Expressing age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual relations.
  • Sexual victimization of other children.

Possible Indicators of Maltreatment:

  • Obvious malnourishment, listlessness, or fatigue.
  • Stealing or begging for food.
  • Lack of personal care – poor hygiene, torn and/or dirty clothing.
  • Untreated need for glasses, dental care, or other medical attention (not due to poverty).
  • Frequent absence from or tardiness to school.
  • Child inappropriately left unattended or without supervision.

Remember to Report Violations of the Standards of Behavior (Even in the Absence of Other Signs of Abuse), Including:

  • Physical boundary violations such as tickling or wrestling.
  • Any form of unwanted affection.
  • Speech, gestures, or other behaviors that are demeaning, belittling, hurtful, or meant to embarrass.
  • Inappropriate levels of supervision, including 1:1 interaction between adults and minors.
  • Unauthorized photo/video of a minor.
  • Sexual comments or jokes in front of a minor.
  • Sharing sexually explicit material, alcohol, or other drugs with a minor.