Signs of Abuse

If you have concerns about a child, please call your local CAS immediately. All CASs have emergency service 24 hours a day, so you can call anytime.

What is child abuse or neglect?

Physical Abuse

Any deliberate physical force or action (usually by a parent or caregiver) that results, or could result, in injury to a child. It can include punching, slapping, beating, shaking, burning, biting or throwing a child. It is different from what is considered reasonable discipline.

The signs and indicators of abuse and neglect may include but are not limited to those that follow. It is important to realize that the presence of any one indicator is not conclusive proof that a child has been abused. In most instances, abused children will exhibit a number of behavioural and physical indicators.

Physical abuse is any harm to a child caused by an action or omission of action by the child's caregiver.

Injuries may include
bruises;
welts;
cuts;
fractures;
burns; or
internal injuries.
Physical abuse can be one or two isolated incidents or can occur over a prolonged period of time.

Behavioural indicators
cannot recall how injuries occurred or offers an inconsistent explanation
wary of adults
may cringe or flinch if touched unexpectedly
infants may display a vacant stare
extremely aggressive or extremely withdrawn
indiscriminately seeks affection
extremely compliant and/or eager to please

Physical indicators
injuries that are not consistent with explanation
presence of several injuries that are in various stages of healing
presence of various injuries over a period of time
facial injuries in infants and preschool children
injuries inconsistent with the child's age and developmental phase

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Sexual Abuse

The signs and indicators of abuse and neglect may include but are not limited to those that follow. It is important to realize that the presence of any one indicator is not conclusive proof that a child has been abused. In most instances, abused children will exhibit a number of behavioural and physical indicators.

Sexual abuse is any sexual exploitation of a child by an older person where the child is being used for a sexual purpose.

The Criminal Code of Canada identifies a number of types of sexual abuse, including

sexual interference;
an invitation to sexually touch;
sexual exploitation of a young person;
parent or guardian procuring sexual activity from a child;
householder permitting sexual activity;
exposing genitals to a child; and
incest.

Behavioural indicators;
age inappropriate play with toys, self or others displaying explicit sexual acts
age inappropriate sexually explicit drawing and/or descriptions
bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge
prostitution
seductive behaviours

Physical indicators;
unusual or excessive itching in the genital or anal area
torn, stained or bloody underwear (may be observed if the child needs bathroom assistance)
pregnancy
injuries to the genital or anal areas, eg bruising, swelling or infection
venereal disease
The signs and indicators of abuse and neglect may include but are not limited to those that follow.

It is important to realize that the presence of any one indicator is not conclusive proof that a child has been abused. In most instances, abused children will exhibit a number of behavioural and physical indicators.

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Emotional Abuse

The signs and indicators of abuse and neglect may include but are not limited to those that follow. It is important to realize that the presence of any one indicator is not conclusive proof that a child has been abused. In most instances, abused children will exhibit a number of behavioural and physical indicators.

Emotional abuse includes all acts of omission or commission which result in the absence of a nurturing environment for the child. It occurs when the caregiver continually treats the child in such a negative way that the child's concept of "self" is seriously impaired. Emotionally abusive behaviour by the caregiver can include constant yelling; demeaning remarks; rejecting, ignoring or isolating the child; or terrorizing the child. Emotional abuse can be the most difficult to identify and prove.

Behavioural Indicators
severe depression
extreme withdrawal or aggressiveness
overly compliant, too well mannered, too neat or clean
extreme attention seeking
displays extreme inhibition in play

Physical indicators
bed wetting that is non-medical in origin
frequent psychosomatic complaints, headaches, nausea, abdominal pains
child fails to thrive
The signs and indicators of abuse and neglect may include but are not limited to those that follow.

It is important to realize that the presence of any one indicator is not conclusive proof that a child has been abused. In most instances, abused children will exhibit a number of behavioural and physical indicators.

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Neglect

The signs and indicators of abuse and neglect may include but are not limited to those that follow. It is important to realize that the presence of any one indicator is not conclusive proof that a child has been abused. In most instances, abused children will exhibit a number of behavioural and physical indicators.

Most caregivers do not intend to neglect their children. It usually results from ignorance about appropriate care for children or an ability to plan ahead.

Neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to provide basic needs such as adequate food, sleep, safety, supervision, clothing or medical treatment.

Behavioural indicators
pale, listless, unkempt
frequent absence from school
inappropriate clothing for the weather, dirty clothes
engaged in delinquent acts, alcohol/drug abuse
frequently forgets a lunch

Physical indicators
poor hygiene
unattended physical problems or medical needs, eg dental work, glasses
consistent lack of supervision

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Abandonment/Separation

When a child has been abandoned, the child’s parent has died or is unavailable to exercise his or her custodial rights and has not made adequate provisions for the child’s care and custody. It also occurs when a child is in residential placement and the parent refuses or is unable or unwilling to resume the child’s care and custody.

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Caregiver Capacity

No harm has come to a child and no evidence is apparent that a child may be in need of intervention, however the caregiver demonstrates, or has demonstrated in the past, characteristics that indicate the child would be at risk of harm without intervention. These characteristics can include a history of abusing/ neglecting a child, being unable to protect a child from harm, problems such as drug or alcohol abuse, mental health issues or limited care giving skills.
Abused children do not always show obvious warning signs of abuse or neglect, but sometimes there are subtle indicators. Know the subtle signs of abuse and if you have any concerns at all about a child, please contact your local CAS immediately.

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