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Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse

  • Physical Health Consequences: Shaken baby syndrome, impaired brain development, poor physical health
  • Psychological Consequences: Difficulties during infancy, poor mental and emotional health, cognitive difficulties, social difficulties
  • Behavioral Consequences: Difficulties during adolescence, juvenile delinquency and adult criminality, alcohol and other drug abuse, abusive behavior

Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
  • Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive, or extremely aggressive).
  • Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
  • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantruming).

Warning Signs of Physical Abuse in Children

  • Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
  • Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
  • Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.

Warning Signs of Neglect in Children

  • Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
  • Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
  • Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
  • Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
  • Is frequently late or missing from school.
  • Warning signs of sexual abuse in children
  • Trouble walking or sitting.
  • Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
  • Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
  • An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
  • Runs away from home.

Helping an Abused or Neglected Child

What should you do if you suspect that a child has been abused? How do you approach them? Or what if a child comes to you? It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed and confused in this situation. Child abuse is a difficult subject that can be hard to accept and even harder to talk about.

If a child discloses

  • Remain calm. Avoid making facial expressions when the child is speaking
  • Listen closely to what the child has to say. Limit questions or interruptions when possible.
  • Reassure the child they have done the right thing by telling
  • Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in their own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions.
  • Help make the child feel comfortable. Telling someone about abuse is difficult and uncomfortable for children

What to do if you suspect abuse

  • A report of abuse can be made if you have a “reasonable suspicion” that abuse is taking place
  • Report all the facts about the situation that you know. You do not have to investigate or confirm any information.
  • An anonymous report can be made to the child abuse hotline, however, we encourage reporters to leave their name in case the investigator needs to verify information

Just remember, you can make a tremendous difference in the life of an abused child, especially if you take steps to stop the abuse early. When talking with an abused child, the best thing you can provide is calm reassurance and unconditional support. Let your actions speak for you if you’re having trouble finding the words. Remember that talking about the abuse may be very difficult for the child. It’s your job to reassure the child and provide whatever help you can.

Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect

If you suspect a child is being abused, it’s critical to get them the help they need.

Understanding some of the myths behind reporting may help put your mind at ease if you need to report child abuse:

  • I don’t want to interfere in someone else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
  • What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home - unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management, or other resources may be offered.
  • They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most states, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
  • It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

From "Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing and Preventing Child Abuse

What Information Do I Need to Make a Report?

  • The name and address of the child you suspect is being abused or neglected
  • The age of the child
  • The name and address of the parents or caretakers
  • The name of the person you suspect is abusing or neglecting the child and the address if available
  • The reason you suspect the child is being abuse and neglected
  • Any other information which may be helpful to the investigation

You have the option of giving your name or reporting anonymously. Giving your name can help the investigator clarify information. The agency will not give your name to the person suspected of abusing the child.

Please Note: All of the above information is not needed to make a report. If you are not sure you have enough information to report, always err on the safety of the child. Children services screens all reports to determine if there is enough information to investigate.

In Ohio, after a report is made,

  • A child protective services investigator will interview the child, family members & others as deemed appropriate
  • The investigator determines if the child is being abused or is at risk for abuse
  • The case may be referred to local social service agencies, or to juvenile, family or criminal court

Mandated Reporting
A mandated reporter is someone required by law to report if they suspect or know that child abuse if occurring. A list of mandated reporters for Ohio includes:

  • Attorneys
  • Audiologists
  • Child care workers
  • Children Services personnel
  • Clergy
  • Coroners
  • Day care personnel
  • Dentists
  • Nurses
  • Physicians including hospital interns and residents
  • Podiatrists
  • Psychiatrists
  • School authorities, employees and teachers
  • Social Workers
  • Speech Pathologists
  • Animal Control Officers/Agents

To report child abuse in Cuyahoga County, OH, call 216-696-KIDS (5437)
To Get Help call our 24-hour Helpline 216-391-HELP (4357)


You can help stop domestic violence and child abuse.

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