What To Do if You Suspect Child Abuse

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on December 12, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As individuals, we often tend to try to respect boundaries. But sometimes, we simply can't - and shouldn't - ignore signs that there may be suspected child abuse happening in someone's home.

After all, ignoring signs of child abuse for too long can result in tragedies.

Below are some tips to deal with this most uncomfortable, but important of subjects.

What exactly should you do if you suspect abuse? And, how do you spot it in the first place?

Child abuse does not need to be physical.

Surefire signs of abuse can include visible injuries such as bruises, black eyes or cuts. But, there are only signs of physical abuse. Child abuse can take a variety of different forms, including neglect or emotional abuse. These can be more difficult to spot.

Emotional abuse can be very damaging.

Emotional abuse can include parents or someone else who is close to the child constantly belittling and insulting the child. This can have lasting damage to a child's psyche.

Child neglect is often included in child abuse statutes.

Child neglect is often included in state statutes that address child abuse. Neglect typically occurs when a parent fails to care for a child's basic needs. This can include proper food, clothing, or supervision.

Many people are "mandatory reporters" of child abuse.

While statutes vary by state, in general there are numerous people who are considered "mandatory reporters." This means that they must report known or suspected cases of child abuse to a central authority. This people can include clergy, day care workers, teachers, hospital personnel, and more. Some states make it a requirement that anyone who has reason to believe child abuse has occurred must make a report.

If you suspect child abuse, report it to your jurisdiction's central authority. This is usually an 800 number that you can call. Once you report child abuse, there is generally no liability if you made a good-faith report even if it turns out to be untrue.

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