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What is Child Abuse: The law places responsibility on the individual who did something to cause harm to or endanger a child either:

Intentionally: Done with the direct purpose of causing the type of harm that resulted.

Knowingly: Understanding that the harm is “ Practically certain to result” in negative consequences.

Recklessly: Conscious disregard for foreseeable risk

Sexual Abuse/Exploitation:

  • Rape

  • Statutory sexual assault

  • Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse

  • Sexual assault

  • Institutional sexual assault

  • Aggravated indecent assault

  • Indecent assault

  • Indecent exposure

  • Incest

  • Prostitution

  • Sexual abuse

  • Unlawful contact with a minor

  • Sexual exploitation

Physical Neglect:

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  • Endangering a child’s life or health.

  • Threatening a child’s well-being

  • Causing bodily injury or impairing a child’s health development, or functioning due to:

  • Repeated, prolonged or egregious failure to supervise a child, considering the child’s age and development

  • Failing to provide a child with adequate essential food, clothing, shelter or medical care

Abuse Indicators

There are a variety of ways the trauma of abuse in a child is experienced. We recognize the trauma a child is experiencing through the physical indicators we can see and the behavioral indicators they experience. The signs below are some physical and behavioral indicators of child abuse. NOTE: The Signs of Sexual Abuse or Exploitation both physical and behavioral indicators are often observed with children who have been sexually abused. 

Remember these indicators are “Red Flags” and may be due to unrelated circumstances and conditions. 

Many of these indicators may occur in children who have not been abused and may not be seen in children who have been abused.

Signs of Bodily Injury:

Physical Indicators

  • Unexplained injuries

  • Unbelievable or inconsistent explanations of injuries

  • Multiple bruises in various stages of healing 

  • Bruises located on the face, ears, neck, buttocks, back, chest, thighs, back of legs, and genitalia

  • Bruises that resemble objects such as a hand, fist, belt buckle, or rope

  • Injuries that are inconsistent with a child’s age/developmental level

  • Burns

Behavioral Indicators

  • Fear of going home

  • Extreme apprehensiveness/vigilance

  • Pronounced aggression or passivity

  • Flinches easily or avoids being touched

  • Play includes abusive behavior or talk

  • Unable to recall how injuries occurred or account of injuries is inconsistent with the nature of the injuries

  • Fear of parent or caregiver

Signs of Sexual Abuse or Exploitation

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Physical Indicators

  • Sleep disturbances 

  • Bedwetting

  • Pain or irritation in genital/anal area

  • Difficulty walking or sitting

  • Difficulty urinating

  • Pregnancy

  • Positive testing for sexually transmitted disease or HIV

  • Excessive or injurious masturbation

Behavioral Indicators

  • Sexually stylized behavior

  • Developmental age-inappropriate sexual play and/or drawings

  • Cruelty to others

  • Cruelty to animals

  • Firesetting

  • Anxious

  • Withdrawn

Signs of Physical Neglect

Physical Indicators

  • Lack of adequate medical and dental care

  • Often hungry

  • Child’s weight is significantly lower than what is normal for his/her age and gender

  • Developmental delays

  • Persistent (untreated) conditions ( e.g. head lice, diaper rash)

  • Exposure to hazards (e.g. illegal drugs, rodent/insect infestation, mold)

  • Clothing that is dirty, inappropriate for the weather, too small or too large


Behavioral Indicators

  • Not registered in school 

  • Inadequate or inappropriate supervision

  • Poor impulse control

  • Frequently fatigued

  • Parentified behaviors

  • Delinquent behavior

  • Mistrusting

Always report suspected harm to a child:

Pennsylvania provides needed services and support both for cases of child abuse or neglect and for cases of non-abuse that require support and assistance. Child welfare professionals who receive your report will determine the type of assistance needed.

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