We continue this week to talk about child abuse, hoping that we can educate you in case you ever see or hear anything suspicious. Under Indiana state law, anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect is considered to be a “mandated reporter”. So how do you know when it’s time to make the report?
Some overall warning signs of any kind of abuse/neglect include the child withdrawing or isolating from friends or activities, a lack of parent supervision, attendance problems at school, severe changes in mood or personality, depression or anxiety, defiant behavior, running away, suicidal thoughts or plans. Another huge warning sign is when a child does not want to go home from school or daycare.
Physical- The most obvious signs of abuse are going to be bruises, scratches, burn marks, broken bones, black eyes, etc. Oftentimes the stories of how the child attained these wounds don’t match up with the injuries. The child may have made multiple trips to the ER in a short period time, or may have injuries that have not been treated. An additional note: Corporal punishment that leaves bruises or marks can be considered a form of child abuse, and is reportable.
Sexual-Sexual abuse can be harder to see. You may notice an increase in inappropriate sexualized behavior from the child (for example, knowing words they shouldn’t, wanting to show more skin, acting more sexual). The child may have blood in their underwear, complain about pain in their genitals, or have trouble sitting or walking. They may try to perform sexual acts on other children, such as inappropriate touching, humping, oral sex, etc. A few other signs to look for include an increase in bedwetting, nightmares/night terrors, and being scared or anxious.
Neglect-Neglect can be difficult to see as well. The child may have poor hygiene and consistently battle lice, bed bugs, etc. They may hoard food or steal things. They can have severe emotional mood swings or be completely indifferent. Often, they have a poor attendance record at school. They may have an odor from not bathing, not washing their clothes, or from animals in the home.
**PLEASE NOTE: It is not your responsibility to question the child or to decide if you have enough “evidence” for an investigation! This can be very traumatizing to the child and may also impede an investigation. It is only your duty to report what you’ve seen or heard-the Department of Child Services or local Law Enforcement Agency will do the rest. When in doubt, report!
Continue to read this week as we talk more about the effects of Child Abuse and also provide some resources.
Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW
Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Christy enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Christy also provides family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.
Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.