Child abuse: What to look out for


Oftentimes, child abuse leaves neither witnesses nor evidence that a crime has been committed. It’s for this reason that we must trust children when they confess someone has touched them or has displayed inappropriate behavior around them. When they don’t speak about it, abused children show signs that can alert those around them and help them detect said abuse.

What is child abuse?

Child abuse occurs when there’s inappropriate sexual behavior involving a child, with or without said child’s consent. Because they are minors, they lack knowledge regarding the situation and its consequences, not understanding of the sexual implications that such conduct implies, be it due to:

  • Feeling forced to participate
  • Receiving economic compensation

Likewise, abuse is considered to have happened if:

  • There is both physical and emotional violence
  • It happens once or multiple times
  • Happens inside or outside the family

Signs that can point to child abuse

  1. Knowledge, behavior, drawings and sexual language that does not correspond to the child’s age.
  2. Altered mood and behavior; not being affectionate and disliking being touched. Being restless, irritable, nervous or sad; constantly crying or displaying a regress in behavior.
  3. Altered sleep, due to lack of restfulness or because of frequent nightmares.
  4. Changes in hygiene habits, becoming either very poor or very extreme, due to the stress or guilt the child may feel because of the situation he or she faces. There are children who feel shame or try to protect themselves, and do not want to be seen, due to the risk or having bruises noticed.
  5. Altered eating habits, usually leaning towards a lack of appetite.
  6. Poor grades, caused by a lack of concentration that leads to poor results and plummeting grades, or a complete lack of interest in education.

Other physical signs children can display are traces of blood in their underwear or sexually transmitted diseases, as well as bruises the children may not be able to explain, such as wounds, fractures or burns.

Long-term complications

When a child abuse case is detected, physical and psychological consequences can be overcome with time, as long as strong social support is provided to the child, and resilience is encouraged in order to adapt and deal with bad experiences.

The children that have no access to such support systems can display physical, emotional, mental and behavioral problems such as:

  • Premature death
  • Physical and learning disabilities
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Health problems such as heart disease or immunological issues
  • Suicidal or self-harming behavior
  • Violent conduct
  • Abuse towards others
  • Isolation, limited social and interpersonal skills
  • Issues finishing their education, finding and keeping a job

Protecting children or helping them overcome their issues will determine who they become in the future.