Responding To Child Abuse
Steps to protect a child
- Stay calm.
- Your reaction may frighten and confuse the child.
Listen & Be Supportive
- Believe the child.
- Thank the child for telling you, and praise the child's courage.
Avoid Questioning the Child
- Asking questions could jeopardize the investigative process.
- The child will be referred to specially trained child abuse professionals to conduct a forensic interview.
- Promptly reporting suspected abuse can protect a child - it may even save a child's life.
- ALL Tennessee residents are mandated to report child abuse:
Child Abuse Hotline:
Tennessee Code Annotated
§37-1-403. All persons (including doctors, mental health professionals, child care providers, dentists, family members, and friends) must report suspected child abuse or neglect. Failure to report child abuse or neglect is a violation of the law.
Signs of Child Abuse
Below are indicators of child abuse that can include but are not limited to these signs. Some signs are more obvious than others. Trust your instincts! Suspicion of abuse is enough reason to call the hotline. You do not need proof.
- Unexplained Injuries
- Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of injuries.
- Changes in Behavior
- Abuse can lead to many changes in a child’s behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or more aggressive.
- Returning to Earlier Behavior
- Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages such as: thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers, loss of acquired language, or memory problems.
- Fear of Going Home
- Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
- Changes in Eating
- The stress, fear, and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or weight loss.
- Changes in Sleeping
- Frequent nightmares or having difficulty falling asleep which may result in the child appearing tired or fatigued.
- Changes in School Performance and Attendance
- Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children’s injuries from authorities.
- Lack of Personal Care or Hygiene
- Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
- Risk-taking Behaviors
- Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.
- Inappropriate Sexual Behavior
- Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.