Pulling back the curtain on child abuse: Signs a child is being abused

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Buckner wants to assure every child lives in a safe and nurturing home. You can also play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect by being aware of the signs and being an advocate for children. 

Make no mistake, child abuse is a widespread epidemic affecting our most vulnerable children today. It crosses all boundaries, including race, religion and economic status. No one person or group is exempt from this tragedy.

Abuse is most often committed by someone the child loves and trusts the most. Close to 90 percent of the cases reported to the Texas Department of Family Protective Services are from the family members where the children live.

Let’s look at the four types of abuse and just a few basic warning signs we can look for as we interact with children:

  • Neglect: Failure to provide the child’s basic needs. Examples and signs: Drugs or drug abuse in the home, inadequate supervision, poor health or personal hygiene, failure to accept parental responsibility for the child and abandonment. 
  • Physical: Infliction of physical injury to a child. Examples and signs: Frequent injuries, burns and bruises, fear of going home or being alone with parents and unreasonable clothing that might be hiding injuries to arms or legs.
  • Sexual: Incest, rape or commercial exploitation. Examples and signs: Difficulty sitting or walking, evidence of injury to the genital area, acting out sexual activity, fear of being alone with certain adults and sexual victimization of other children.
  • Emotional: Extreme or bizarre forms of punishment. Examples and signs: Confinement in a closet or unsuitable spaces, tying child up, habitual shaming or threatening, name-calling, constant screaming.  

It is up to each of us to report child abuse. If you see any of these suspicious signs, report it. If there is any doubt whatsoever, report it. TDFPS reporting hotline is 1-800-252-5400.

Written by James Romero, a UCAP/STAR case manager for the Buckner STAR program in the Rio Grande Valley Texas, helping families work through conflict and prevent child abuse. Through the STAR program, Buckner has been preventing child abuse for 20 years in the region. 

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