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Recognizing the Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

child abuse prevention

Child abuse is an epidemic that can happen anywhere and to anyone. It occurs in several different forms including physical, emotional, verbal or mental abuse, sexual assault or neglect. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring children are safe and protected. We encourage family members, neighbors, educators, caregivers and entire communities to recognize the signs below and report if a child is being abused or neglected. You can also download this one-page sheet with all the signs to help you recognize child abuse and neglect.

Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect: 

Child abuse - injuries Unexplained injuries
Burns, cuts and bruises are visible signs of physical abuse. Explanations for these injuries may be unconvincing.

Child abuse - behavior

Changes in behavior
Abused children often appear anxious, aggressive, depressed, withdrawn or scared. Some may return to earlier behaviors such as wetting the bed or express an irrational fear of strangers or the dark.

Child abuse - fearFear of going home
Abused children may display anxiety about leaving school or going somewhere alone with the abuser.

Child abuse - eatingChanges in eating
Fear and stress can alter an abused child’s eating habits, resulting in gaining or losing weight.

Child abuse - sleepChanges in sleeping
Abused children may appear tired, have difficulty sleeping or experience frequent nightmares.

Child abuse - schoolChanges in school performance
Abused children have difficulty concentrating and have frequent absences that can often be attributed to parents trying to hide the child’s injuries.

Child abuse - hygieneLack of personal care or hygiene
Abused and neglected children may appear dirty, uncared for and lack suitable clothing for the weather.

Child abuse - experimentingRisk-taking behaviors
Older youth who have experienced abuse may begin experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Child abuse - sexualInappropriate behaviors
Children who have been sexually abused may display sexual behavior or explicit language.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call 1-800-352-6513.

KVC works to prevent and heal child abuse and neglect in Nebraska. We are a private, nonprofit organization that provides foster care, adoption, in-home behavioral healthcare, and other services for children and families. Learn more at

nebraska foster care