Experts offer ways to identify child abuse | SierraSun.com
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Experts offer ways to identify child abuse

Staff reports

Child abuse and neglect can sometimes be difficult to detect and other times can be very clear. The key in protecting children is to report any suspicion that has any piece of evidence behind it. If you have a suspicion, but no clear indicators, start asking questions about the family and about the child. It is not your job to prove the abuse or neglect, just to report your suspicions and your observations.

Physical Indicators

— Bruising on the body consistent with the use of force. Many times people are afraid of confusing normal childhood bumps and bruises with child abuse. Normal childhood bumps and bruises usually occur on certain body parts, like shins and elbows. If a child falls while playing, they will usually have similar scrapes and bruises on their hands from trying to brace themselves from the fall.

Look for other bruises and see if the pattern of bruises corresponds with a fall or with a physical fight. Ask the child, “How did you get that bruise?” Or ask the parent, “How did he get that bruise?” Watch for the consistency of the story with the pattern of bruises.

Some bruises are more dangerous than others. Bruises in the abdominal area and the back can be indicators of serious internal injuries which may need medical treatment. Bruises on the face or head are also very worthy of concern and may be indicators of a child at high risk for future injury.

The most common place you may observe bruises stemming from child abuse include the buttocks and the back of the legs. Sometimes, you may be able to see the outline of the instrument on the child’s skin, such as the outline of a hand, a brush, a belt buckle, etc. All of these bruises, when caused through non-accidental action, are considered child abuse and should be reported.

— Burns are sometimes caused by child abusers. These burns can sometimes be differentiated from accidental burns. Accidental burns usually show splashing as the child tries to escape the hot water or grease. Therefore, the outline of the burn is unclear or splotchy. However, with intentional burns, the outline is more definite, like a sock covering a foot, as the child is held in place while being held in hot water or other hot fluid. The same can be true of burns from irons, oven burners, etc. Accidental burns will have less of a definition around the burned area versus a burn that looks more like a branding. Cigarette burns are also a clear indicator of child abuse.

— Shaken Baby Syndrome is a combination of injuries to a baby consistent with the shaking of an infant. This usually manifests itself in brain damage and/or retinal hemorrhage. Cracked ribs from being squeezed are sometimes found alongside the symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

— Many other injuries can be indicators of abuse, including dislocated shoulders, bite marks, missing patches of hair, puncture marks on the skin, and many other injuries.

Behavioral Indicators

— Talks about violence in home.

— Wearing clothing that is inappropriate for hot weather that covers the legs and arms, in an effort to cover up the child’s injuries until they heal.

— Limping or other discomfort with physical activity.

— Extreme levels of aggression or withdrawal. May bully other children.

— Fear of leaving school. Constantly arriving early and leaving late.

— Hypersensitivity to touch. May flinch when someone raises their hand in the air above them or reaches out to touch them.

— Extreme anxiety when other children are crying.

— Difficulty with concentration.

Source: Family Source Online


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