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Child abuse is defined as doing or failing to do something that results in harm or risk of harm to a child. Any child can become a victim of abuse. No race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic demographic is immune.


A report of abuse is made every 2 minutes.*

*DFPS Data Book, 2016


92% of children know their abuser.*

*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Maltreatment Report 2016

A child has a greater risk of being sexually abused than being in a car accident.


73% of sexually abused children won’t tell.*

*Broman-Fulks 2007


Physical abuse of a child is when a parent or caregiver causes any non-accidental physical injury to a child.

This includes striking, kicking, burning, biting, hair pulling, strangling, throwing, shoving, whipping, or any other action that injures a child. Even if the caregiver didn’t mean to inflict an injury, when the child is injured, it is abuse. While not all physical discipline causes injury, we do not recommend it as a way to correct your child’s behavior.

Signs of Physical Abuse in a Child:

  • Unexplained changes in the child’s body, behavior, or regression to earlier developmental stages
  • Any injury (bruise, burn, fracture, abdominal, head injury, etc.) that is unexplained, or explained in a way that doesn’t make sense
  • Patterned or distinctly shaped bruises or burns
  • Bruises on the torso, ears, neck, or on children four months old or younger are frequently indicative of abuse
  • Injuries appearing after the child has not been seen for several days
  • Several injuries in different stages of healing
  • Watchful and “on alert” behavior, as if the child is waiting for something bad to happen
  • Shying away from touch, flinching at sudden movements, or seeming afraid to go home or to a certain place
  • Appears afraid of adults
  • Wears clothing inappropriate to the season or weather to cover injuries (i.e. long-sleeved shirts on hot days)
  • Sudden changes in school behavior or attendance
  • Nightmares, trouble sleeping, insomnia
  • Violent themes in fantasy, art, storytelling, etc.
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches with no medical cause
  • Shows aggression towards peers, pets, or other animals
  • Reports injury by a parent or another caregiver

Signs of Physical Abuse in Parent or Caregiver:

  • Denies the existence of, or blames the child for any of the child’s problems in school or at home
  • Can’t or won’t explain injury of a child, or explains it in a way that doesn’t make sense
  • Displays aggression to child or is overly anxious about child’s behavior
  • Asks other caregivers to use physical discipline if the child is misbehaving
  • Indicates child is not trustworthy, a liar, evil, or a troublemaker. Expresses that the child is worthless or burdensome
  • Delays or prevents medical care for the child
  • Shows little concern for the child
  • Takes the child to different doctors or hospitals
  • Keeps the child from school, church, clubs, etc.
  • Has history of violent and/or abusive behavior

Sexual abuse occurs when someone uses a child for sexual purposes or involves a child in sexual acts.

This includes touching the victim or having victim touch offender on their private parts over or under clothing, exposure of private parts of either party, exposure of graphic content to the child, and the introduction of sexual material in person or online.

Signs of Sexual Abuse in a Child:

  • Extreme sexual behavior that seems inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Sexual acting out or excessive masturbation
  • Unusual or repetitive soothing behaviors (i.e. pacing, rocking, hand-washing, etc.)
  • Genital pain, itching, swelling or bleeding, or a sexually transmitted disease
  • Frequent urinary tract or yeast infections
  • Torn, stained, or bloody undergarments
  • Refusal to change clothes for activities (i.e. P.E. class) or refusal to participate in physical activities
  • Withdrawn, depressed, anxious
  • Poor self-image, lack of confidence
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Increased aggression, reckless behavior, substance abuse, running away, suicide attempts
  • Failure in school, significant decline in performance, or increased absenteeism
  • Fear of being alone with adults, especially of a particular gender
  • Nightmares, bedwetting, or other frequent sleep disturbances
  • Sudden or significant changes in appetite, weight, hygiene
  • Fear of a particular person or family member
  • Reports sexual abuse

Concerning Adult Behaviors:

  • Inordinately protective of the child or strictly limits the child’s contact with others, especially of the opposite sex
  • Is secretive and isolated
  • Is highly jealous or controlling with family members
  • Seeks access to children and tends to get along better with children than adults
  • Has items at home or in vehicle specifically appealing to children such as posters, music, videos, toys, etc.
  • Provides unwarranted gifts, trips, affection, and attention to a specific child or small group of children
  • Refuses to let the child set their own boundaries or frequently crosses their boundaries (i.e. excessive touching, playing doctor, “accidently” walking in on them in the bathroom, etc.)
  • Allows children or teens to consistently get away with inappropriate behaviors or instigating them (i.e. drinking, drugs, sexual behavior)
  • Talks about sexual fantasies with children and is not clear about what’s appropriate with children
  • Possesses child pornography
  • Seeks isolated access to children

Emotional is defined as inflicting and/or allowing mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and tangible impairment of the child’s growth, development or psychological functioning. This includes being ignored, rejected, isolated, exploited, verbally assaulted, or terrorized.

Signs of Emotional Abuse in a Child:

  • Behavioral changes or regression in behaviors (i.e. wetting bed, pants)
  • Speech disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Developmental delays
  • Lack of attachment to the primary caregiver
  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong
  • Acts inappropriately adult-like (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantrums)
  • Extremely passive or aggressive behavior
  • Anxieties, phobias, or sleep disorders
  • Destructive or anti-social behaviors (violence, cruelty, vandalism, stealing, cheating, lying)
  • Suicidal
  • Reports a lack of attachment to the parent

Signs of Emotional Abuse in Parent or Caregiver:

  • Routinely ignores, criticizes, yells at, or blames child
  • Plays favorites with one child over another
  • Overtly rejects the child
  • Shows poor anger management or emotional self-regulation
  • Tumultuous relationships with other adults
  • Disrespect for authority
  • History of violent or abusive behavior
  • Untreated mental illness, alcoholism, or substance abuse

Neglect is defined as leaving a child in a situation where they would be exposed to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm, or failing to arrange the necessary care for the child.

This includes physical neglect, neglectful supervision, or medical neglect.

Examples of Neglect:

  • Deserting a child or refusing to take custody of a child who is under your care
  • Repeatedly leaving a child in another’s custody for days or weeks at a time
  • Failing to provide adequate food, drink, clothing, or shelter
  • Failing to ensure appropriate personal hygiene
  • Not appropriately supervising the child
  • Leaving the child with an unqualified caregiver
  • Exposing a child to unsafe/unsanitary environments or situations
  • Ignoring a child’s need for attention, affection, and emotional support
  • Exposing a child to extreme or frequent violence, especially domestic violence
  • Permitting a child to use drugs, alcohol, or engage in crime
  • Keeping a child isolated from friends or loved ones
  • Not providing adequate treatment or preventative care for medical or dental needs

Signs of Neglect in a Child:

  • Frequently absent from school, incomplete work, or changing of schools
  • Theft of food or money, frequently complaining of hunger
  • Consistently poor hygiene, body odor
  • Lack of appropriate clothing for weather or clothing that is the incorrect size, worn out, or dirty
  • Frequently unsupervised, left alone or allowed to play in unsafe environments
  • Talks about caring for the needs of their younger siblings
  • Lacks needed medical or dental care
  • Low body weight, height for their age
  • Displays frequent exhaustion

Signs of Neglect in a Parent:

  • Displays indifference or lack of care toward the child
  • Apathetic or depressed
  • Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner
  • Abuses alcohol or other drugs
  • Denies problems or blames problems on the child
  • Relies on the child for their own emotional or physical needs

Early intervention is key to helping a child heal.