Millions of children witness domestic violence and abuse every year, many of those children are or will be victims of abuse themselves. Because abused children often do not or cannot speak out about their abuse, vigilant adults are a critical part of protecting them from ongoing harm.

Once a responsible party, like a teacher, medical professional, parent or neighbor, reports suspected abuse, the police have far more tools to prevent domestic violence in the future. But knowing many children are reluctant to speak out or are afraid of further harm if they do, adults need to be aware of the signs of abuse.

Recognizing abuse

While many are familiar with some signs of abuse, like broken bones, bruising and bedwetting, some of the less common signs can go unseen. For instance, according to the Mayo Clinic, child victims often display symptoms like:

  • Persistent headaches
  • Uncontrollable weight loss or weight gain
  • Social withdrawal from friends
  • Attention-seeking behavior, both positive and negative
  • Hiding food

The sooner you can stop childhood abuse, the better. Children who suffer domestic violence, especially for prolonged periods of time, are more likely to struggle with depression, face adulthood addictions and substance disorders, engage in criminal behavior and suffer ongoing health problems.

What you can do if you believe a child is in danger of abuse

Many parents and concerned adults do not know what to do about child abuse. If you are concerned about injuries or other medical issues a child is displaying, a doctor or other medical professional may be able to help. As mandated reporters, they are trained to spot abuse.

Similarly, you should feel free to call the Department of Children and Families or the police. For more information on child abuse, you can reference the Department of Children and Families guide on the topic.

If you or your child is a victim of domestic violence, you may seek a protective order that will help keep you and your child safe. Speak with an attorney about how to file a restraining order.