Physical abuse is an injury deliberately inflicted upon a child by any person, including adults. Physical abuse includes fractured or broken bones, burns, severe and/or frequent bruises, and any other intentionally inflicted physical harm.
Physical abuse is usually identified by physical marks on the child’s body, but children can also suffer emotional damage from abuse. The list below describes physical signs you may notice as well as emotional signs.
Any kind of child abuse is against the law and has serious effects on victims. If you suspect that a child is being abused, call your local child protective services agency. In Milwaukee County, that number is (414) 220-SAFE. To find the child abuse hotlines in other Wisconsin counties, click here or call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
Stopping abuse helps a child heal faster, and reduces the long-term effects of the abuse on the child. Remember—when a child tells you about abuse, he or she is being very brave, and is looking to you for help.
When a child tells you that he or she is being abused, you should:
Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to news as disturbing as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.
Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his/her own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.
Reassure the child that he/she did nothing wrong. It takes a lot of courage for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure them that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault.
Call your local child protective services agency. It is better that you do not handle the situation on your own. In Milwaukee County, that number is (414) 220-SAFE. To find the child abuse hotlines in other Wisconsin counties, click here or call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.