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Child Abuse – Signs and Symptoms

Child abuse is any form of physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that leads to injury or harm.

It commonly occurs within a relationship of trust or responsibility and is an abuse of power or a breach of trust. Abuse can happen to a child regardless of their age, gender, race or ability. Abusers can be adults (male or female) and other young people, and are usually known to and trusted by the child and family

Although these signs do not necessarily indicate that a child has been abused, they may help adults recognise that something is wrong. The possibility of abuse should be investigated if a child shows a number of these symptoms, or any of them to a marked degree:

Sexual Abuse

  • Being overly affectionate or knowledgeable in a sexual way inappropriate to the child’s age
  • Medical problems such as chronic itching, pain in the genitals, venereal diseases
  • Other extreme reactions, such as depression, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, running away, overdoses, anorexia
  • Personality changes such as becoming insecure or clinging
  • Regressing to younger behaviour patterns such as thumb sucking or bringing out discarded cuddly toys
  • Sudden loss of appetite or compulsive eating
  • Being isolated or withdrawn
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lack of trust or fear of someone they know well, such as not wanting to be alone with a babysitter or child minder
  • Starting to wet again, day or night/nightmares
  • Become worried about clothing being removed
  • Suddenly drawing sexually explicit pictures
  • Trying to be ‘ultra-good’ or perfect; overreacting to criticism

A child may be subjected to a combination of different kinds of abuse.
It is also possible that a child may show no outward signs and hide what is happening from everyone

Sexual development progresses through a number of different phases:

  • infancy
  • young school age
  • pre-adolescence
  • adolescence

Each stage has behaviours which are considered ‘age-appropriate’., although it is also normal to a see a child exhibiting behaviour from the age group immediately above or below them.

If a child has learning difficulties or behavioural difficulties, it is important to consider their developmental stage.

Many adults are uncomfortable when they see children displaying sexual behaviour. Our judgements are affected by age, gender, personal experiences, cultural background, religious beliefs and profession.

It is normal for children of all ages to play and experiment and be curious about their own and each other’s bodies.

Ask yourself the Following questions

1.    Does the child seem ‘normal’ for their age?
2.   Do they seem emotionally or socially withdrawn?
3.   Are they unusually aggressive?
4.   Does the child seem dirty or smelly?
5.   Are they bruised or cut in any way?
6.   Is the child left at home by themselves?
7.   Are they left out late at night?
8.   Is their home clean and tidy?
9.   Does the child spend time with their family?
10. Do they seem to have a good relationship?

And Talk to your Kids… Always

Your child might not be abused but they might have Seen something happen to some other child, Talking is the best and most powerful tool we have.  Understand this that Sometimes children do not realise that certain behaviour is OK in private but not in public. Or they do not realise that their behaviour is upsetting or harming other children.  They may be uncomfortable talking about sexual issues and may also be worried they are in trouble so your tone and manner are very important. Or you might see this happening to other kids in your locality SPEAK UP.

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