What is abuse?

The following may help you decide whether a child's welfare is at risk of abuse, harm or neglect.

Signs which may suggest physical abuse:

  • Any bruising to a baby - pre-walking stage
  • Multiple bruising to different parts of the body
  • Bruising of different colours indicating repeated injuries
  • Fingertip bruising to the chest, back, arms or legs
  • Burns of any shape or size
  • An injury for which there is no adequate explanation
  • A child tells you about it 

Signs of possible sexual abuse:

  • Something a child has told you
  • Something a child has told someone else
  • A child who shows worrying sexualised behaviour in their play or with other children
  • A child who seems to have inappropriate sexual knowledge for their age
  • A child who may be visiting or being looked after by a known or suspected sexual offender 

Signs which may suggest emotional harm:

The following signs may be present in children whose parents are over-critical and emotionally distant, or who are unable to meet their child's emotional needs:

  • Children whose behaviour is excessive. For example, excessive bedwetting, overeating, rocking, head banging.
  • Children who self harm. For example, they may cut or scratch themselves or overdose.
  • Children who attempt suicide
  • Children who persistently run away from home
  • Children who show high levels of anxiety, unhappiness or withdrawal
  • Children who usually seek out or avoid affection. 

Signs which may suggest neglect:

  • Squalid, unhygienic or dangerous home conditions
  • Parents who fail to attend to their children's health or development needs
  • Children who appear persistently undersized or underweight
  • Children who continually appear tired or lacking in energy
  • Children who suffer frequent injuries due to lack of supervision
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