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How to help an Abused Child

Updated on March 18, 2012

I attended a training in Issues on Child Maltreatment. I must say that it was informative and taught me a valuable lesson; Not to turn a blind eye on child abuse. This article focuses on how to detect signs that a child may be abused and learn the step-by-step process in reporting the case. This post is not only beneficial to early childhood professionals, but to all adults who care deeply for children.

According to the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), (420 U.S.S.A, 5106g), the definition of child abuse and neglect as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, is " any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or "an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm". There are different kinds of abuses that a child may experience. The types of abuse are physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect.

Physical abuse- The warning signs of this type of abuse are unusual or unexplained bruises, welts, cuts, or other injuries, broken bones and burns. The child may exhibit odd behavior such as being withdrawn or depressed, wearing clothing inappropriate for the weather to conceal injuries. The child may be afraid to go home. The child might display and act of aggression or may shy away from physical contact.

Sexual abuse- The child may be a victim of sexual abuse if she has a stained or torn underwear, difficulty in walking or sitting, experiences discomfort in the genital area, bruises or bleeding in his or her private parts and a sexually transmitted disease. The behaviorial signs are the same as those of physical abuse with the exception of having an unusual sexual behavior.

Emotional abuse- The child exhibits this kind of abuse when he or she has speech disorders, slowed physical development, acts inappropriately for her age, having difficulty making friends.

Neglect- Children may be physically and medically neglected. If a child has poor hygiene or dresses inappropriately for the weather, has unattended medical needs, is often tired and hungry, always tardy or skips school, then she might be neglected.

If a child confesses to being abused, here are some tips on how to handle and report the case.

1. Be sympathetic- Listen to the child intently and make no judgements about his story. Give the child the assurance that what happened was not her fault. Let the child tell it like it is and be sure to talk to her in a comfortable and private setting.

2. Stay calm- Avoid overreacting when she discusses lurid details about her abuse. If the listener gets too excited, the child might get frightened to tell her story and lose here trust in the listener.

3. Document the story- Write the story exactly the way the child told you. Be sure to include the name of the child, the abuser's relationship with the child, witnesses, and information about the person reporting the abuse.

4. Keep all accounts confidential- Never tell other children or adults about the abuse other than the proper authorities. This will prevent the child from further embarassment and protect the child's privacy.

5. Call your local child protection agency or your local law enforcement agency.- They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Talk to a live person about the incident. Don't fax, email, or send the agency a letter. These cases require a speedy response.

Here are some relevant contact information od child agencies that might be of help.

1. Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline- 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

2. 911

3. (202) 442-6100

4. Child Welfare Information Gateway- 1-800-394-3366

5. Local law enforcement agency



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    • profile image

      moli 5 years ago


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This was the topic that so concerned us as can you tell if one of our students is being abused if they will not admit to it? We wrestled with this one over and over again and it is heartbreaking. Well-done!