We have heard the phrase “kids will be kids” for ages when talking about their behavior and risk-taking activities, so sometimes adults tend to overlook marks and bruising on children. 

How can one be positive that these injuries come from horseplaying with other children and not something more serious? Approximately 4 million reports of child abuse are made yearly since 2019. 

It is crucial for adults and children to learn how to recognize physical abuse as it can save families and lives. 

Child Abuse Warnings and Signs 

We know kids can be accident-prone while playing, leading to bruises and skinned knees. But there are signs one must look out for to make sure children are not being physically abused. 

1. Bruising

As common as bruises are, the placing and shape of the bruise can convey a different message. The following signs may indicate foul play: 

  • Bruising anywhere on the face or often in the same areas.
  • Bruises in the shape of hands, fingers, or any particular object, like belt marks.
  • Bruising in places where children usually don’t get injured, such as their torso, neck, back, or more private areas. 
  • Bruises that are grouped in the same area can mean repeated striking and the child is being abused. 

2. Burns

Burn marks are a more obvious sign of child abuse since most children won’t typically play with fire. Although accidents happen, here are a few warnings of burn marks on children: 

  • Unexplainable burn marks, such as cigarette burns, are most definitely a warning. Although an adult may “accidentally” burn a child with a cigarette, the distinct burn mark of an intentional one will not be the same shape or magnitude. 
  • Burns caused to the hands and feet by submerging them in scalding liquids, known as “stocking” and “glove” burns are a few atrocious acts one may notice. There are also “doughnut” burns on the buttocks and genitals, shaped like rings, or doughnuts that are caused by liquid. 
  • Burns caused by ropes, being dragged on carpets, or anything used for restraining.
  • Children in abusive homes may also be coerced into making contact with hot surfaces like stoves, irons, and heaters that will cause burns. 

3. Lacerations

Although it is common for kids to come home from school with cuts and scrapes from playing at recess, or even just from being clumsy, there are certain lacerations to look out for that may be signs of abuse. 

  • Any abrasions to a child’s face.
  • If you notice any cuts or tears in a kid’s mouth, it can be due to aggressive force-feeding. 
  • Lacerations in private areas. 
  • Abusive hair pulling can lead to loss of hair, lacerations in the scalp, and even hemorrhaging under the scalp. 

4. Behavior

Being a victim of child abuse is traumatic and can lead to changes in behavior. Here are some behaviors to be aware of: 

  • Children who are being physically abused tend to withdraw themselves from their peers. 
  • They might seem more fearful, for example flinching at loud noises or sudden movements.
  • Children may even copy the behaviors of their abusers and begin to act much more aggressive towards other children.

If you suspect a child is in danger, please report child abuse by calling authorities, social workers, or child abuse hotlines that can guide you on how to handle this delicate situation. 

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo and Starr Counties are Here to Support and Inform Residents of the Warning of Physical Child Abuse

The Children’s Advocacy Centers have been helping children who are victims of abuse since 2001. We care for the safety and well-being of all the children in the Rio Grande Valley, and hope to help families overcome the mistreatment of children.