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The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse
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Physical Abuse

Identifying Physical Abuse
Being able to recognize the signs of physical abuse is the first step towards its elimination. As a society, we have to start paying more attention to the acts of violence against children that we witness, or suspect to be occurring. The following list depicts some of the physical signs that may indicate that physical abuse is occurring:


  • On the posterior side of the body
  • On the face, lips or mouth
  • In clusters that form regular patterns, or reflect the shape of the instrument used to inflict them (e.g., electrical cord, board, belt buckle)
  • On an infant, usually on the face
  • Human bite marks

  • Immersion or wet burns, such as “stocking burns” or doughnut shaped burns on the buttocks
  • Cigarette or cigar burns, especially on the palms of hands, soles of feet, or genitals
  • Rope burns, possibly from confinement
  • Patterned or dry burns which show a clearly defined mark such as those caused by an iron

Lacerations and Abrasions
  • On lips, eyes, or any portion of an infant’s face
  • Of gum tissue, caused by forced feeding
  • On external genitals
  • On back of arms, legs, torso

Missing or Loose Teeth

  • Teeth are missing or loose too early in the child’s development
Skeletal Injuries (Medical Diagnosis)
  • Metaphysical or corner fractures of long bones, caused by twisting or pulling
  • Epiphysical separation – separation of the growth center at the end of the bone from the rest of the shaft, caused by twisting or pulling
  • Periosteal elevation – detachment of periosteum from shaft of bone with associated hemorrhaging periosteum and shaft
  • Spiral fractures
  • Stiff, swollen, enlarged joints

Head Injuries
  • Absence of hair
  • Hemorrhaging beneath scalp, caused by pulling hair
  • Subdural hematomas, caused by hitting or shaking
  • Retinal hemorrhages or detachment, caused by shaking
  • Nasal, skull, or jaw fracture

Internal Injuries (Medical Diagnosis)
  • Duodenal or jejunal hematoma, caused by hitting or kicking
  • Rupture of inferior vena cava
  • Peritonitis, which can be caused by hitting or kicking
  • Constant vomiting

Behavioral Indicators of Physical Abuse
  • Overly compliant, passive-Fearful of physical contact
  • Sporadic temper tantrums
  • Craves attention
  • Wears long sleeves or other concealing clothing even in hot weather
  • Reports injury by a parent or caregiver
  • Appears frightened of parent(s) or caregiver
  • Demonstrates extremes in behavior – overly aggressive or very withdrawn
  • Inappropriate neatness while playing or eating
  • Unable to offer reasonable explanation for injury
  • Lack of distress at being separated from parent(s) or caregiver
  • Is often sleepy in class
  • Arrives early for school, stays late
  • Complains that physical activity causes pain or discomfort
  • Excessive school absence and/or tardiness
  • Overly cautious, lacks curiosity


Disclaimer:   I am not a health care professional. I am an abuse survivor. The resources on this site are for information and education only. Information on this website is meant to support not replace the advice of a licensed health care or mental health care professional. Please consult your own physician for health care advice.

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