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Signs of abuse

Physical and Behavioural Signs


  • Bruises or welts on facial areas and other areas of the body including back, bottom, legs, arms, or inner thighs

  • Bruises or welts in unusual configurations

  • Bruises or welts that look like the object used to make the injury (for example fingerprints, handprints, buckles, iron, or teeth)

  • Burns from boiling water, oil, or flames

  • Burns that show the shape of the object used to make them (for example, iron, grill, or a cigarette)

  • Fractures of the skull, jaw, nose, or limbs – especially those not consistent with the explanation offered, or the type of injury not possible at the child’s age of development

  • Cuts and grazes to the mouth, lips, gums, eye area, ears, or external genitalia

  • Bald patches where hair has been pulled out

  • Multiple injuries – old and new

  • Effects of poisoning

  • Internal injuries.


  • Disclosure of an injury inflicted by someone else (parent, carer, or guardian)an inconsistent or unlikely explanation, or inability to remember the cause of injury

  • Unusual fear of physical contact with adults

  • Aggressive behaviour

  • Disproportionate reaction to events

  • Wearing clothes unsuitable for weather conditions to hide injuries

  • Wariness or fear of a parent, carer, or guardian

  • Reluctance to go home

  • No reaction or little emotion displayed when being hurt or threatened

  • Habitual absences from school without reasonable explanation

  • Overly compliant, shy, withdrawn, passive, or uncommunicative

  • Unusually nervous, hyperactive, aggressive, disruptive, or destructive to self or others

  • Poor sleeping patterns, fear of the dark, nightmares, or regressive behaviour (for example, bed-wetting)

  • Drug or alcohol misuse, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm.