Parents, teachers, social workers, and ministers can ill-afford not to be trained to recognize the signs of abuse. A knowledgeable and quick response may save a child and give him or her hope where there is none. To aid your memory, I have developed an acrostic depicting the most common signs of abused child.
1. Aggression: In response to built-up frustration, the child — particularly boys — may express his anger through delinquent types of behavior.
2. Broken trust: Abused children are often the victims of inconsistent parental punishment, deceit and broken promises. Children may complain of not being able to trust their parents and often find it difficult to trust any significant adult.
3. Un__: You can fill in the blank with the opposite of what healthy children feel. Children of abuse feel unwanted, unloved, unimportant, unhappy.
4. School: Either the abused child frequently is kept home to allow his or her injuries to heal or he/she may hardly ever miss school and look for reasons to arrive early and stay late.
5. Esteem: The child views himself as stupid, bad, dirty, unlovable, or worthless.
6. Defensive: Hypervigilant and always alert to danger, the child — particularly girls —may withdraw in order to defend herself from a world of conflict and punishment.
7. Care: Poor hygiene, lack of preventive health care, undernourished, and inappropriate dress for the weather may be signs of abuse.
8. History: Developmentally inappropriate sexual behaviors such as masturbation and sexually aggressive conduct toward others are warning signs that the child may be expressing what has been done to him or her.
9. Injury: Look for repeated bruises, cuts, burns, or other injuries such as the imprint of an iron or lacerations made by a cord. Although all children are susceptible to accidental injury, the frequency and type of injury often defy any reasonable explanation.
10. Laughter: An abused child has difficulty having fun and often finds himself incapable of enjoying playtime with other children.
11. Depression: Frequent crying spells, sleep disturbances, changes in eating habits are common reactions to abuse. Some children may become so sad that they become self-destructive — cutting themselves, pulling out their hair, banging their heads, or even attempting suicide.
Reporting child abuse to the Department of Human Services and making sure that appropriate interventions take place to protect our society’s most innocent victims is your responsibility. If not you, who?