Signs of Child Abuse

The Joyful Heart Foundation lists the following signs of child abuse. It is vital that we are aware of all of them so as to keep a watchful eye on our children. 

Children who have experienced child abuse may demonstrate any of the following signs.


  • Failure to thrive socially or academically
  • Speech disorders
  • Delayed physical development
  • Attachment issues, such as discomfort with physical contact or difficulty connecting with others
  • Lags in physical, emotional or intellectual development
  • Learning disorders


  • Behavior extremes, such as appearing overly compliant and passive or very demanding and aggressive.
  • Withdrawn and/or overly sensitive behaviors
  • Increased fear or avoidance of a specific person and/or situation
  • Difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings
  • Substance use
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Anxiety and/or excessive worrying


  • Bruises, welts or swelling
  • Sprains or fractures
  • Burns
  • Lacerations or abrasions
  • Frequent physical complaints, such as stomachaches and headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Bedwetting


  • Difficulty in walking or sitting
  • Torn, stained or bloody clothing
  • Pain or itching in the genital area; bruises or bleeding in the external genital area
  • Sexually transmitted infections or diseases
  • Pregnancy
  • Knowledge of or interest in sexual behaviors that are not age appropriate


  • Low self-esteem
  • Uncharacteristic obedience or perfectionism
  • Strong feelings of shame or guilt
  • Programmed statements or behaviors

Child abuse is more prevalent than most people think.

90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abusers.

Of children who are sexually abused 20% are abused before the age of eight.

Only 4-8% of child sexual abuse is fabricated.

Use of alcohol or drugs at an early age can be a sign of child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse is the number one hardest crime to prosecute.

American Society for the Positive Care of Children states:

  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.37 3
  • Over 58,000 children were sexually abused last year. 12
  • 3 % of reported child abuse cases were sexual abuse. 1
  • 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members. 4
  • 3% of girls were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization, and 30% of girls were between the ages of 11 and 17. 2
  • 8% of boys were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization. 2
  • 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male, and 76.8% of people who sexually abuse children are adults. 4
  • 325,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of commercial child sexual exploitation each year. 5
  • Caregiver alcohol or drug abuse is a child abuse risk factor putting kids at much higher risk for being abused. 1
  • The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14 years old, and the average age for boys is 11 to 13 years old. 5





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