Signs of abuse & neglect

Physical abuse can often be identified by external injuries such as bruises, burns and broken bones, while the signs of emotional abuse are often buried beneath the surface. If you suspect someone you know might be suffering from abuse or neglect, learn about the actions and behaviors to look for. There are local programs and organizations available nearby to help guide survivors of abuse and neglect toward safety.

Identifying neglect

Neglect can be anything from a lack of food and medical care to total abandonment. Young people who have experienced neglect may show the following signs:

  • Behavioral issues
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Trouble maintaining healthy relationships
  • Low self-esteem
  • Problems at school


Identifying emotional abuse

Although there typically aren’t any physical signs of emotional abuse, you may notice changes in an individual’s actions or behaviors. The following are common signs of a teen or young adult who has been emotionally abused:

  • Aggressive, destructive behaviors
  • Compulsions, obsessions and phobias
  • Developmental delays
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Hard on themselves
  • Overly demanding
  • Shy or passive
  • Thoughts of suicide


Identifying physical abuse

If a young person often has injuries and you start to notice a pattern, it is a good idea to have the situation investigated. Common symptoms of physical abuse might include:

  • Behaves aggressively
  • Complaints of chronic pain
  • Cuts, burns, bruises, black eyes and other physical marks
  • Depressed, anxious and withdrawn
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Pattern of injuries
  • Repeated trips to the emergency room
  • Social isolation


Identifying sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can be physical contact, sexually suggestive language and can even happen online. The following behaviors are common signs to look out for:

  • Bruises and other signs of physical abuse
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Loss or gain in appetite
  • Poor performance in school
  • Rapid weight gain or loss
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Thoughts of self-harm