What are the signs of abuse?
How do I know if my friend is being abused?
Although the following signs do not necessarily mean your friend is being abused, it is important to tell a trusted adult if you think they are showing a number of these signs so that someone can help to find out if they need help. Your school or college should have a trained child protection officer who can talk through any concerns with you.
Signs of sexual abuse may include:
- talking a lot about sex and giving detailed descriptions. Your friend may appear to know more about sex or sexual activities than you or your other friends the same age;
- becoming depressed and talking about harming themselves in some way;
- running away or talking about running away from home;
- having personality changes such as becoming insecure or clinging;
- spending a lot of time alone and not 'joining in' with groups of friends;
- appearing a lot younger than they are - behaving like a 'baby' i.e. sucking their thumb or carrying around a cuddly toy;
- having a sudden loss of appetite or overeating;
- suddenly starting to draw sexually detailed pictures;
- not allowing anyone to touch them.
Signs of physical abuse may include:
- unexplained injuries or burns;
- making up stories or refusing to explain their injuries;
- wearing a lot of clothes i.e. long sleeved tops; even in hot weather;
- not wanting to be watched undressing for PE or avoiding sports lessons;
- talking about running away;
- fear of doctors examination;
- aggressive or violent towards others;
- not wanting anyone to touch them;
- talking a lot about being punished at home for small problems such as not doing the washing up properly;
- being worried or afraid about people talking to their parents/ carers or family.
Signs of emotional abuse may include:
- delays surrounding physical, mental and emotional development;
- unusual difficulties in communicating or talking;
- putting themselves down constantly (i.e. I am stupid, ugly, worthless);
- overreaction to mistakes, punishing themselves if they get things wrong;
- extreme fear of any new situation;
- saying they deserve pain or bad things to happen to them;
- unusual behaviour i.e. rocking on chairs, hair twisting, self-harm;
- having no interest in anything or anyone;
- becoming aggressive;
- being pushed to be the best in school and sports beyond what they can or want to do.
Signs of neglect may include:
- lack of food;
- poor personal hygiene;
- constant tiredness;
- poor state of clothing i.e. holes in clothes, old or dirty clothes;
- extreme loss of weight, or weight gain;
- constantly asking for things like food money;
- not having anything of their own in class i.e. books pens etc.