How do I recognize child abuse?

Physical Abuse

The following marks and abrasions can be strongly indicative of physical abuse especially when combined with a child’s description of how the injury was inflicted. Another strong indicator of child abuse is an explanation for injuries that would be unusual in a given age group. For example, a broken arm or leg in a four-month old child is blamed on a fall down the stairs.

Signs of physical abuse may include:

  • Unexplained or unreasonable:
    • Abrasions
    • Broken Bones
    • Bruises
    • Burns
    • Cuts
  • Patterned marks made by objects like:
    • Belts
    • Cords
    • Clothes
    • Curling Irons
    • Hand Prints
    • Teeth

Sexual Abuse

The best indicator of sexual abuse is a disclosure by the child regarding the sexual activity. 

Other indicators may be:

  • Changes in established behaviors like sleeping, eating and toileting
  • Complaints of genital pain or irritation
  • Detailed, age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual acts
  • Infection with a sexually transmitted disease


Neglect can be indicated by a child who is chronically dirty or dressed inappropriately for the weather, a child who is frequently hungry or sleepy and reports being unable to eat or sleep regularly at home, a child who does not attend school regularly or one who has not been enrolled in school, a child who remains untreated or is treated inappropriately for a medical problem or a child who describes being left alone and unable to care for himself.

A good indicator of endangerment is a description by a child of events that may place him in danger such as being involved in a physical, domestic fight between adults in the home, seeing illegal drugs being used or sold, or having access to loaded guns kept in the home.

Contact Us

Call Community and Veterans Services at 320-983-8208 for more information.

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1. How do I recognize child abuse?
2. Why should I report child abuse?
3. What if I'm not sure if the situation is serious enough to report?
4. How do I report suspected child abuse?
5. Who must report child abuse?
6. Are there penalties for a mandated reporter who fails to report child abuse?
7. If the allegation of child abuse cannot be proven, will I get into trouble for making the report?
8. What should I do if a child tells me about abuse?
9. As a parent, what can I do to prevent child abuse?
10. I don't want to make my children fearful by talking about sexual abuse or I don't want to talk to my children about sexual abuse because they are too young. Is it really necessary?