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Resources for Families

Signs of Abuse

Abuse, whether it is physical, sexual, or neglectful in nature, represents a kind of trauma. Trauma can be any event that, when witnessed or experienced by a child or adolescent, is extremely distressing to them. Children react in different ways to a traumatic event, and recognizing common reactions to trauma is a good first step in recognizing child abuse. Some possible reactions to trauma include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares and/or not wanting to sleep alone
  • Difficulty not thinking about the event
  • Increased fear in both safe and risky situations
  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty staying still
  • Thoughts about death or dying
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Drop in grades/performance at school
  • Irritability and problems with anger control
  • Efforts to avoid talking about the event or doing things that remind the child about the event

Needless to say, not every child who exhibits these behaviors has been the victim of abuse. This list is simply meant to provide understanding of how children might react to trauma.

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