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Recognizing Abuse and Neglect

If you suspect a child is suffering from any type of abuse neglect, report it to Indiana Department of Child Services by calling 800-800-5556.

Physical Abuse:

Infliction of physical injury or allowing another to do so.

Possible Physical Indicators: 
Unexplained bruises, especially on “fleshy” areas
Unexplained welts, burns, lumps, bumps, fractures or abrasions. Hemorrhages, burns (cigarettes), dental/oral injuries.

Potential Behavioral Indicators:
Verbally reports abuse, too eager to please, depression, low self-esteem, behavioral extremes, role reversal. Developmental lags, appears frightened of caretaker, school absenteeism, exaggerated startle response.


Behavioral Indicators of Caretaker:
Harsh disciplinarian, describes child in a consistently negative manner, defensive, conceals or misleads about child’s injuries, substance abuser.


Chronic failure to meet basic needs of a child for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education or supervision.

Possible Physical Indicators:
Flat, bald spots on infant’s head.  Dirty, smelly, torn, dirty or inappropriate clothing for the weather. Developmental lags,

Potential Behavioral Indicators:
Listless, begging/stealing food, constant fatigue, alcohol or drug use, reports being left alone.

Behavioral Indicators of Caretaker:
Substance abuser, chaotic life style, apathetic, expects too much of child.

Sexual Abuse:

Utilization of a child for sexual gratification by an adult or older child in a position of power, or permitting another person to do so.


Possible Physical Indicators: 
Any venereal disease, bruised/dilated genitals or rectum, pregnancy under 16 years of age, difficulty/pain in walking or sitting,
foreign matter in bladder, rectum or urethra.
Pelvic inflammatory disease, torn, stained or bloody underclothing, recurrent urinary tract infections.

Potential Behavioral Indicators:
Aggressive, overt sexual behavior, drawing pictures of people with genitals or vagina, cruelty to animals without physiological basis. Pre-mature knowledge of explicit sexual acts, sleep disorders, taking frequent baths, starting fires, self-inflicted injuries.
Expresses fear of a particular person or place.
Reports sexual abuse.

Behavioral Indicators of Caretaker:
Extremely protective of family privacy, does not allow child to be involved in extracurricular activities, does not want child to engage in developmentally appropriate activities i.e. dating, encourages child into prostitution, substance abuser.

Non-contact sexual offenses:
Indecent exposure/exhibitionism, exposing children to pornographic material, deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse, masturbation in front of a child.

Touching sexual offenses include:
Fondling, making a child touch an individual’s sexual organs, any penetration of a child’s vagina or anus – no matter how slight by a penis or any object that does not have a valid medical purpose.


Sexual exploitation of a child is also an offense and can include:
Engaging or soliciting a child for the purposes of prostitution, using a child to film, photograph or model pornography.

What are long-term effects of child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse may have lifelong effects on children resulting in serious emotional problems including depression, antisocial behavior and identity confusion. Children may lose trust in adults in their lives, suffer feelings of guilt or develop self-abusive behaviors. The memories of abuse may even be suppressed until later in their adult lives.

Medical Neglect: 

Even minimal health care is not being obtained for a child. This lack of health care can lead to serious harm and even death. For example, an untreated cold or flu can result in pneumonia, which can be fatal.


Signs of medical neglect include:
Adult does not use emergency services at all, even with severe injury or illness. When medicine is prescribed, the prescription is not filled. Dental needs go untreated. Regimens recommended for treatment of chronic illness not followed.
Prescribed psychological help not obtained.

Failure to thrive:

Failure to thrive is a significantly underweight child, usually less than 18-months-old. Any child suffering from failure to thrive should be reported as a potential victim of neglect. Approximately 30 percent of failure to thrive cases have an organic cause and require the adult to seek medical attention for the child.

Warning signs include:
Prominent ribs, thin buttocks, much wrinkled skin, spindly arms & legs.

Emotional Maltreatment/Neglect:

Chronic failure by the caretaker to provide support and affection necessary to develop a sound and healthy personality. When a child is emotionally neglected, he or she is being hurt by what is not there.


Potential Behavioral Indicators:
Low self esteem, difficulty forming positive relationships, eating disorders, elimination problems, speech disorders, inability to trust, sleep problems, sadistic, masochistic, apathetic,
suicidal, withdrawal, anxiety, fear.
Developmental lags, reports emotional maltreatment.

Behavioral Indicators of Caretaker:
Rejecting, ignoring, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting


Emotional neglect may include:
Habitual lack of attention, affection, emotional, support or supervision. Refusal of treatment or services recommended by school or medical personnel. Punishing indiscriminately without teaching right from wrong. No “family time” for shared social experiences such as meals, discussions about feelings or family outings. Showing no interest in a child’s schoolwork, grades, hobbies or friends. Lack of supervision with no established expectations for behavior.

Emotional Abuse:

Emotional abuse is a chronic attitude or act of a caretaker that is detrimental to the child’s development of a sound and healthy personality. Emotional abuse is often expressed in verbal abuse, making a child feel that he or she is worthless and unworthy of attention and love.

Emotional abuse may include:
Verbal threats of bodily harm, mis-socialization of a child into harmful behaviors such as lying or stealing, demeaning a child with comments such as “you’re stupid,” “you’re no good,” “you’re ugly,” or “I hate you”.

Effects of Emotional Maltreatment;
Low self esteem, difficulty in forming positive relationships, defiant behavior, inability to trust,
poorly developed ability to empathize with others.
Apathy, elimination disorders, speech disorders,
eating disorders, derives pleasure from hurting others, suicide attempts.

What Can We Do To Prevent Emotional Maltreatment?
Teach parents and caregivers to set limits, communicate directions and provide structure for children and youth with loving, rather than hurting, words.
Tell children and youth that they are special, important, lovable, likeable and talented.
Provide support and education to parents and caregivers who are adult supervisors of maltreatment to help break the cycle of abuse.

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