Sometimes it is hard to stop signs of child abuse. The abuser may cover it well or maybe the child is scared and knows how to hide signs or has excuses that they use when asked about it. However, it is especially important when working in a setting with children that you know what you are looking out for and to never ignore anything if you are suspicious of it. Often children don’t understand that what is happening to them is abuse as they may not know anything else if it has happened to them for years. Or they might not tell anyone about it because they don’t think anyone will believe them.
Obviously, there are lots of different types of abuse. Each type of abuse will have different signs and symptoms and I am going to talk about a few different signs of a couple of types of abuse.
Young children will show several signs if they are being sexually abused. These signs may also occur for other reasons but in the instance of several at one time, you should begin to start asking questions and seeking help. (Nsopw.gov)
Changes in behaviour:
Changes in eating habits and/or trouble swallowing
Mimicking of adult sexual behaviour with other children or toys
Asking other children to play sexual games/role-play with them
Sudden use of new ‘adult’ words for genitals or private parts
Starts soiling or wetting themselves for no apparent reason when already toilet trained
Fear or resistance to take clothes off at appropriate times (Bath, Bed, Going to toilet etc.)
Draws pictures of seemingly sexual situations
Unexplained gifts or money
Although not as common, there may also be physical signs which are symptoms of sexual abuse
Reoccurring complaints of pain when urinating or during bowel movements
Discolouration, discharge, pain or bleeding in or around genitals, anus or mouth
If you believe a child could be at risk of sexual abuse because they are showing several signs, you need to take the correct steps to make sure it is reported and that the child is safe.
Physical abuse is a difficult subject because some signs are easily explained away by excuses. Of course, children fall and hurt themselves all the time but if they seem suspicious, reoccurring and in a pattern or if the explanation doesn’t match up, you need to take action to ensure the safety of the child.
Seems often ‘on edge’ as if waiting for something to happen
Flinches from touch from any adults
Appears afraid to go home or afraid of certain adults
Doesn’t show emotion when hurt
Child offers explanations of injuries which seem unlikely or made up
Bruises in the shape of a hand or an object
Clusters of bruises, perhaps on the upper thigh or forearm
Bruises with blood under the skin appearing
Burns in the shape of objects, e.g. a cigarette burn
Multiple burns at one time
Human bite marks on any part of the body
Any fractures or breaks in young children are always a great concern
P4: Explain appropriate responses when child maltreatment or abuse is suspected
D2: Justify responses where child maltreatment or abuse is suspected or confirmed, referring to current legislation and policies.
If you have recognised several of these signs and are suspicious of occurring abuse, the next step is to report the abuse. If you are a teacher/teaching assistant and you suspect that one of the children in your class is being abused, you might decide to first speak to the child. If you do decide to do this, you need to be very sensitive in the way you ask questions and not intrusive. To do this, you need to be in a safe environment where the child will feel comfortable and able to speak the truth. Your demeanour is important; you should be open and confident and try your best to not seem shocked or disturbed by what they are saying as they might interpret that as you feeling