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Physical Abuse

What is physical abuse of a child?

Physical abuse is an injury deliberately inflicted upon a child by any person, including adults. Physical abuse includes fractured or broken bones, burns, severe and/or frequent bruises, and any other intentionally inflicted physical harm.

How do you recognize physical abuse?

Physical abuse is usually identified by physical marks on the child’s body, but children can also suffer emotional damage from abuse. The list below describes physical signs you may notice as well as emotional signs.

Physical Signs

  • Bruises, welts on face, neck, chest, back
  • Injuries in the shape of object (belt, cord)
  • Unexplained burns on palms, soles of feet, back
  • Fractures that do not fit the story of how an injury occurred
  • Delay in seeking medical help

Emotional Signs

  • Extremes in behavior: very aggressive or withdrawn and shy
  • Afraid to go home
  • Frightened of parents
  • Fearful of other adults

What should I do if I suspect a child is being physically abused?

Stopping abuse helps a child heal faster, and reduces the long-term effects of the abuse on the child. Remember—when a child tells you about abuse, he or she is being very brave, and is looking to you for help.

When a child tells you that he or she is being abused, you should:

Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to news as disturbing as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.

Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his/her own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.

Reassure the child that he/she did nothing wrong. It takes a lot of courage for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure them that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault.

How can I help a child recover from the trauma of physical abuse?

  • Help build a child’s optimism by reinforcing the good experiences the child has had and make plans for fun activities
  • Build the child’s self-esteem by telling him or her when they have done a good job and how special they are
  • Encourage the child to explore the things that they are good at, whether it is schoolwork, artistic talent or athletic ability
  • Laugh with the child to help them develop a sense of humor
  • Give the child age appropriate chores and responsibilities to develop independence and show your trust
  • Let the child know they can talk to you
  • Write down and explain rules
  • Be consistent and never use or threaten to use violence

Content Credit: Kid’s Matter Inc. https://kidsmatterinc.org