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How to spot if a child has been abused

Experts caution abuse can be mental, emotional or physical
Possible child abuse signs.PNG
Posted at 6:49 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 21:28:59-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There are many subtle and not so subtle signs that may point to a child possibly being abused.

According to Clarissa Mora, the executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Coastal Bend, many kids will not speak up about abuse out of fear.
Unexplained injuries and a difference in personality are common signs of child abuse, along with a child regressing in behavior.

“Maybe things like low self esteem. Not feeling confident when they speak or when they do certain things. Maybe fear of certain people or fear of talking around certain people,” Mora said.

Mora used an example of a 5-year-old acting younger and wanting a bottle or wanting to crawl. She said some other things to look out for is the emotional and mental state of a child.

Tabitha DeMartino, the case management supervisor at Agape Harbor, said there’s different types of abuse to look out for: sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and neglect. She said a child withdrawing from peers, having frequent absences from school, and not wanting to go home are also signs that a child has been abused.

“It impacts them greatly….not only in how they view the world but how they trust authority figures and just there’s so many signs….there’s stuff like post traumatic stress disorder,” DeMartino said.

She said anything can trigger a child’s PTSD, including someone not responding to a child, which will make the child feel worthless and neglected again. She said another trigger can be failing at something because their parents may have been abusive when they didn’t do well in something like school. She said someone that hasn’t gone through abuse may not see it as a trigger or a big deal, but kids who have been through abuse see it negatively.

John Lennan, the media specialist at the Department of Family and Protective Services, said they offer families a service plan that would help them provide a safe place for a child. He said you can also report to them if you feel a child’s medical needs are not being met.

“In the state of Texas the law requires anybody who suspects a child is being abused or neglected is required by law to make a report to the department,” Lennan said.

He also said it’s important to report any incident, because they can’t know about all cases.

“The first step to helping a family and their children is to make a report to us because if we don’t know that there’s a family that is experiencing some degree of a crisis and if there’s abuse and neglect going on in the home…we can’t begin to help them until we’ve been told about it,” Lennan said.

You can reach DFPS at their hotline number 1-800-252-5400 if you suspect a child is being abused.