7 subtle signs of child abuse neglect missed, overlooked

Published 3:10 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2024

By Dr. Lindsay Pate
Assistant Director of Clinical Services at Youth Villages
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Unfortunately for many children, their abuse goes unnoticed, unseen, or hidden from the public eye. Some child abuse is visible, and yet there are those who still do nothing to help.

Dr. Lindsay Pate

In Mississippi, state law requires all persons to make a report when they reasonably suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation of children to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services by calling 1-800-222-8000. 

So, what are signs of child abuse and neglect that people should look for in children and adolescents? Some are obvious indicators. Children who have visible bruises, appear hungry, wear tattered or unwashed clothing, or display poor hygiene are a few of the more observable indications.
However, there are additional abuse and neglect signals that may not be so apparent. Here are seven signs that you may want to look for:
  • Emotionless or withdrawn: Child’s eyes appear empty, looking beyond you as opposed to looking at you; lacks normal emotional responses or is reluctant to interact with others, especially if this is a noticeable change from their typical behavior.
  • Fearful of physical care: Child suddenly shows fear over normal physical care activities like changing their diaper, getting undressed, or going to the bathroom.
  • Non-age-appropriate behavior/unusual play activity: Child exhibits adult-like behavior or carries adult responsibilities; a child acts out what is happening to them via play.
  • Avoids/fearful of people or places: Child stops wanting to visit a person or place that they used to enjoy; scans every new room or building they enter as though they are looking for someone or something.
  • Low self-esteem: Child routinely makes critical or negative comments about themself.
  • Frequent illnesses: Increase in stomachaches, headaches, infections, or not feeling well.
  • Eating changes: Drastic or sudden changes in eating, appetite, or focus on food.
Children often do not feel comfortable sharing information about what has happened to them because they simply do not know how to express it or trust that adults will protect them. As a mandatory reporter, you are the voice for children who are being abused and neglected. You can be the advocate who they need.
Again, if there is suspicion that a child or adolescent is being abused or neglected, contact the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services at 1-800-222-8000. Call 911 if a situation is an emergency or life-threatening.

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