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What is Child Abuse

Child abuse can take place anywhere—at home, school, public places—wherever a child goes or interacts with others. It can take several forms, and cause long-lasting scars on the body of the child, as well as the mind. Child abuse can present itself in many forms. Some signs are not obvious or visible.

Child abuse can be very subtle and you may not even see signs. Look for changes in behavior and trust your instinct.

Some of the behaviors you may see include:

Unexplained Injuries

Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child’s injuries.

Changes in behavior

Abuse can lead to many changes in a child’s behavior. Children who have been abused often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.

Changes in eating

The stress, fear and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or loss.

Fear of going home

Children who have been abused may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.

Changes in performance & attendance

Children who have been abused may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the child’s injuries from authorities.

Returning to earlier behaviors

Children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue.

Risk-taking behaviors

Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.

Inappropriate sexual behaviors

Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.

Changes in sleeping

Children who have been abused may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.

Lack of personal care or hygiene

Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.

Other behaviors to looks for if someone is being abused is listed below by type of abuse. Please note that these are signs that something is amiss. The presence of signs does not necessarily mean that child abuse or neglect has occurred.


•    Reports inflicted injury by an adult or significantly older child.
•    Presence of unexplained physical injury.
•    Wary of adults' physical contact (hides or withdraws).
•    Apprehensive when other children cry.
•    Behavioral extremes (i.e. aggressiveness or withdrawal).
•    Frightened of parents/afraid to go home.
•    Art work displays violence:  adults loom as large, threatening figures, child figures are small and powerless.
•    Play demonstrates violence to dolls, animals.
•    Injures or kills animals.
•    Preoccupation with themes of conflict.
•    Hypervigilence, monitoring the behavior of adults.
•    “Hyper” behavior.
•    Bullying smaller children.
•    The child is overly compliant, eager to please adults, seems to be “too good.”
•    Poor social skills and peer interaction.
•    Complains of soreness or moves uncomfortably.
•    Runs away from home.
•    Indiscriminate in seeking attention and affection from others.


•    Begging, hoarding, stealing food/consistent hunger.
•    Extended stays at school (arrival early and late departure).
•    Constant fatigue, listlessness or falling asleep in class.
•    Alcohol or drug abuse.
•    Frequent stealing from others.
•    Delinquent or self-destructive behavior.
•    Frequent absences or tardiness.
•    Assumes adult responsibilities.
•    Poor hygiene- dirty skin; offensive odor; unwashed
•    Inappropriate dress for the weather.
•    Consistent lack of supervision in the home.
•    Unattended physical problems, medical or dental needs.
•    Abandonment.
•    Failure to thrive or achieve expected growth patterns, underweight.


•    Reports sexual abuse by an adult or older child.
•    Unwilling to change for gym or participate in physical education class.
•    Withdrawal, fantasy or infantile behavior.
•    Bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual behaviors or knowledge for age.
•    Poor peer relationships.
•    Delinquent or run away.
•    Fearful of bathrooms, bedrooms or being alone with an adult.
•    Fearful of same or opposite sex adults.
•    Fearful of closeness, intimacy or touching.
•    Poor boundaries with others (touching without permission, invading body space, etc.).
•    Difficulty in expressing feelings, low self-esteem, fears of separation and loss.
•    Regressive behaviors: thumb sucking; bedwetting
•    Overly compliant.
•    Excessive risk taking, suicidal thoughts or actions.
•    Sexual aggression to smaller children, toys or pets.
•    Drawings are more precise in anatomical detail, sexual themes are evident.
•    Radical changes in bathroom habits.
•    Withdrawn or chronically depressed.
•    Excessive masturbation or preoccupied with genitals.
•    Sudden excessive weight gain or loss.
•    Difficulty in walking or sitting.
•    Torn, stained or bloody underclothing.
•    Pain or itching in genital area.
•    Bruises or bleeding in external genitalia, vaginal or anal areas.
•    Venereal diseases, especially in pre-teen.
•    Pregnancy.
•    Eating disorders, gagging, anorexia, overeating, nausea, ulcers.
•    Sleep disorders, nightmares, refusal to sleep alone.
•    Constipation, fecal retention, fecal impaction.
•    Self-mutilation, disfigurement.
•    Bizarre/unusual sophistication pertaining to sexual behavior or knowledge.


•    Habit disorders (sucking, biting, pulling out hair)
•    Anti-social or destructive behaviors.
•    Unusual fearfulness, sleep disorders
•    Behavioral extremes (aggressiveness, extremely passive or compliant).
•    Suicidal attempts.
•    Speech disorders,
•    Self-harming behaviors.
•    Babies who spend long periods of time in their crib without caregiver checking on them.
•    Babies who do not respond or show happiness when you pay attention to them.
•    Toddlers or preschoolers who look sad or withdraw, or who frequently fight w/other kids.
•    Children who seem to have no friends.
•    Parents who seem depressed or unhappy, or who never show joy in being a parent.
•    Families that seem to have few visitors or close friends.
•    Toddlers/preschoolers who tend to be angry; refuse to follow directions; give up easily; show little joy or happiness.

All citizens have a responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Wyoming state law mandates that any person who suspects child/vulnerable adult abuse, neglect or exploitation is required to report.

Help us spread the word about the importance of reporting abuse or neglect and remind all citizens that reporting is the first step towards protecting a child or vulnerable adult who might be in danger.

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If You Suspect Child Abuse

Report suspected abuse immediately. A suspicion, not proof, is required to make a report.