Warning Signs of Child Abuse

Every child deserves protection from physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, scars, sprains or broken bones
  • frequent "accidents" with questionable explanations
  • major changes in behaviour, including aggression or withdrawal
  • exposure to other violence within the family (e.g., between parents)
  • fear of adults; for example, the child may cringe or flinch if touched unexpectedly
  • fear of a specific adult, including a family member
  • running away from home and not wanting to return
  • repeatedly sick
  • sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • increased social problems at school
  • unusual knowledge of sexual behaviour for the child's age
  • inappropriate sexual behaviour, including play with toys, self or others, or displaying explicit sexual acts
  • physical signs of sexual abuse, including difficulty walking or sitting
  • self-abuse

Every province and territory has a law that says that any person who believes a child is being abused must report it. You will not get in trouble for making the report if you have reason to believe a child is being abused, even if it turns out you were wrong.

If you have reason to believe a child is being abused, call 911, the police or child welfare services in your area.

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