We live in a world where children are exposed to all sorts of situations, some of which may be beyond our control. One such horrific circumstance is child abuse and neglect. No child should ever have to go through the traumatic experience of child abuse. As a parent, it is imperative that we keep a close eye on our kids to prevent child abuse completely or nip it in the early stages, before irreparable damage occurs to the child’s psyche.
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What is child abuse?
Child abuse is maltreatment of a child. This may take many forms, such as physical abuse or neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or health care neglect. Child abuse is seen more in children whose parents are violent, alcoholics, drug addicts, living in poverty or have high levels of stress. Sometimes, abusive parents might come from a background of abuse and neglect themselves, and this translates into poor parenting towards their child.
11 Shocking Signs of Child Abuse
Your keen eye as a parent can diagnose potential child abuse in your child or other children. Here’s what to look out for-
1. Physical signs – bruises, scratches, cuts, burns
The most obvious sign of child abuse of physical type is seen as marks on the body – slap marks on the cheeks, bruises, bites, burns, scratches, cuts and scars. More severe injury involves large burns, arm and leg fractures, and head and stomach injuries. Physical measures used to discipline a child may result in severe consequences for the child if the adult loses his/her temper and goes overboard. Any blunt instrument or belts used to inflict injury can cause bruising and trauma. Not only will physical abuse cause injury to the body ot the child, but it also causes a great deal of emotional trauma and must not be used as a way of relieving a parent’s anger or aggression.
2. Whiplash or head injury/ shaken baby syndrome
Forceful shaking of a baby can result in permanent brain damage due to movement of the brain inside the skull. An angry parent may shake a parent violently to make the baby stop crying. A baby who shows irritability, poor feeding and sleeping, vomiting, seizures or coma may be a victim of child abuse. This is a very serious condition and needs immediate help.
3. Fear of parent or a particular adult
A child who appears to be scared of his parent/s might indicate he/she is being abused physically or sexually by a parent or adult. A child may be unusually afraid of a parent or abusive adult. He/she may not speak or cry in the presence of the abusive parent or adult.
4. Bed wetting
A child normally overcomes bed wetting tendency by the age of 6 or 7 years. If an older child begins bed wetting again, it could indicate emotional trauma resulting from physical or sexual abuse. Children show regressive or early childhood behaviour when they are stressed out or facing problems they cannot deal with.
5. Inappropriate, adult-like behavior
A child generally has limited knowledge of adult sexual behaviour or language. If a child starts using new words for body parts, plays with toys in an inappropriate sexual way, or seems to have knowledge of sexual activity, a parent should look out for the source of such behavior.
6. Sore throat and mouth ulcers
Oral sexual activity may result in mouth ulcers or repeated sore throat infections in a child. This may indicate child sexual abuse, especially in the absence of other reasons to explain a sore throat such as common cold or tonsillitis.
7. Withdrawal from daily life
A child may abruptly stop participating in activities he/she earlier enjoyed, without apparent reason. This may point to abuse in the child’s life, which is making him/her lose interest in fun activities and social outings. This may be due to depression and guilt feelings induced in the child by physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
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8. Inadequate body weight and overall care
A child whose health care needs are being neglected will appear under weight, have poor oral and body hygiene, will wear inappropriate clothes for the weather and have lack of parental supervision. This may point towards health care neglect and safety neglect, which is a form of child abuse. Such a child will appear skinny, with slender arms, legs and buttocks and low energy levels.
9. Pain during urination
Child sexual abuse may result in urinary tract infections in a child. A child experiencing frequent urinary tract infections will have pain during urination and around the genitalia, without apparent reason.
10. Self injury
A child emotionally traumatized by abuse by resort to self harming behavior such as cutting or burning a part of the body, as a way of expressing his/her feelings. It is a sign of unexpressed emotional trauma in a child, resulting due to undetected abuse.
11. Reluctance to undress or bathe
A child may show reluctance or refusal to undress or change clothes or take a bath. This may be tell-tale signs of child sexual abuse.
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Frequent visits by a male relative or friend
If an adult male relative or friend begins visiting your house frequently, shows excess physical affection for your child, takes your child out on outings alone or offer to take your child to the bathroom, it is to be viewed with suspicion of child abuse. A parent has to be vigilant of adults surrounding his/her child, even if it means keeping a close eye on relatives or friends.
In matters of child abuse, the only cure is prevention. Parents must be vigilant and observant of their child’s behavior as well as surroundings at all times. Knowledge of the signs of child abuse may help save your or another child from a lifetime of trauma.