It is a horrifying thought that your child may be undergoing any kind of abuse – physical, sexual or emotional. But remember what is even more horrifying is that the abuse may continue unchecked if you don’t recognize the signs for what they are or if you’re in denial about them. The signs could be overt or covert. As a parent, grandparent or guardian you need to be vigilant about physical, behavioral and emotional signs of abuse.
There could be overt physical signs of abuse – there could be unexplained injury, bruises or bite marks. A child could complain of pain or there could be disturbing signs such as blood in the underwear. However keep in mind that signs are often not as noticeable since abusers cab be clever about not being detected.
Behavioral and Emotional Signs
It could be subtle or noticeable changes in behavior that could be more telling. Remember however, that all children who display one or some of the symptoms below are not necessarily being abused. If a child shows several of these signs you do need to be concerned. Rather than behavior per se, it is a change in behavior or a departure from the norm that should concern you.
If a normally cheerful child seems morose, upset, fearful or otherwise different than usual, these could be a warning signs. An outgoing child may develop fears and apprehensions and may appear withdrawn and quieter than usual.
Children often start to show regressive behavior if they are subject to abuse. The child could display behaviors such as fear of certain places or activities and reluctance for going to bed, nightmares and sleep disturbances.
He or she may start bedwetting, or have changes in toilet habits. He or she could start thumb sucking, baby talk or using comfort objects and start to show other infantile behavior. A child could also become clingy and show increased dependence upon a parent or caregiver. A child may also fall behind in class; could have trouble concentrating or learning.
Aggressive behavior is another indication that something could be wrong. The aggression could be towards animals, inanimate objects, adults and other children. Anger, frustrated outbursts and moodiness could be manifestations of what a child is secretly undergoing.
A child could also develop repetitive behavior and it could be sexual in nature if a child is being sexually abused.
Inappropriate touching of others, touching or stroking their own genitals and even masturbation could be among the symptoms displayed by children who are being abused sexually.