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Straight, No Chaser: Physical Signs of Child Abuse

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD September 26, 2018

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This is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Given how often this topic is in the news, children need you to be part an army to protect children against child abuse. Straight, No Chaser will intermittently be discussing various forms of abuse, but first I’d like to help you recognize physical signs I tend to look for to potentially identify victims of abuse:

  • Black eyes

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  • Broken bones that are unusual and unexplained
  • Bruise marks or lashes shaped like hands, fingers, or objects (such as a belt)

child abuse whip marks arm

  • Bruises in areas where normal childhood activities would not usually result in bruising

BRUISES-MISSED-ABUSE

  • Bite marks

child abuse bite marks

  • Bulging soft spot (fontanelle) or separations in an infant’s skull

childabusefontanelle

  • Burn marks, usually seen on the hands, arms, or buttocks

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  • Choke marks around the neck
  • Cigarette burns on exposed areas or on the genitals

child abuse burns

  • Circular marks around the wrists or ankles (signs of twisting or tying up)
  • Unexplained unconsciousness in an infant

If you ever see such things in children, be suspicious, be involved and get help. There are always “explanations” for why things happen to children, but they too frequently seem to defy logic. Of course you can call 911 or the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD). You could save a life.

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