Signs of Abuse for Mandated Reporters

Mandated reporters interact with children at places like daycare, school, doctor offices, and activity centers and act as a pivotal player in protecting children from abuse. However, if mandated reporters don’t know what they’re looking for, taking the appropriate actions for children becomes difficult. On top of those challenges, there’s a variety of different types of abuse to look out for. As outlined in our Mandated Reporter textbook, here is a breakdown of how to recognize major categories of abuse and an overview of what some mandated reporters may see to back their suspicions of abuse.

Physical Abuse

Bruises, burns, scratches, and broken bones can all derive from physical abuse. However, mandated reporters face additional obstacles regarding the accurate differentiation of abusive injuries and accidental injuries. It is important for mandated reporters to not only rely on physical evidence to determine abuse. Other evidence includes inconsistent stories of how the injury occurred, delay in seeking medical attention, or disclosure from the child of abuse. The location of the injury can also indicate abuse depending on the injury.

Sexual Abuse

The most common way to discovering a child has been sexually abused is through the child’s disclosure to a mandated reporter, who is responsible for reporting this disclosure as soon as possible. However, sexual abuse suspicions also surface from nonspecific behavior associated to the abuse or medical issues not typical for children, including infections and abnormal bleeding.

Psychological/Emotional Abuse

The most difficult type of abuse to identify, psychological abuse often overlaps with emotional abuse. Children suffering from psychological abuse generally have reduced cognitive and emotional function, sometimes appearing numb to their environment. Symptoms of abuse can also appear as disassociation, irritability, avoidance of eye contact, and a negative view of the world and themselves. This form of abuse also has physical consequences, including eating disorders and failure to thrive for young children.

This list scratches the surface of the tell-tale signs that a child needs someone to step in on their behalf, all detailed in our textbook,  Recognition of Child Abuse for the Mandated Reporter, and our training booklet, Child Sexual Abuse: Entry-Level Training for the Mandated Reporter. If you are someone who works with children on a regular basis, you are considered a mandated reporter and are required by law to step in when there are suspicions of abuse. For more information on what we do, visit our website or subscribe to our newsletter.


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