I would spot physical abuse by seeing physical marks on the child’s body, or by observing the way in which the child moves e.g. if they are usually athletic and today they are sitting hunched over holding their ribs, then it is likely that they are in some discomfort.
The physical factors that may occur when a child is subject to abuse may be things like bruises, hand marks and scratches. Of course with most children they end up with scratched/bruised knees from playing football with their friends etc, but scratches/bruises on their middle body, arms and face would indicate that the injuries did not come from a sport or fun activity and possibly that they came from abuse (physical hitting).This would ring alarm bells and I would need to take further action- social services as the child may be in danger.
I would spot emotional abuse by observing the way a child/young person acts when put in public situations such as, when they are round their friends do they engage in social activities like they usually do or do they exclude themselves and withdraw from everyone around them. If the child excludes themselves then this shows that they have things on their mind which are bothering them, and that they have emotional problems.
If they are emotionally being abused their self-confidence may be affected which can result in them being depressed. Signs of depression can vary from the way the child holds themselves = walks around all slump looking at the floor, avoids eye contact etc, to, the way in which they produce pieces of work etc they could write a angry, sad suicidal story for their English work. This would ring alarm bells as to why they are thinking so dark and down, what is going on in their life to make them so sad?.
The signs for neglect can vary. This can be from physical, mental and emotional signs. A physical sign may be that they are extremely skinny, which would indicate that they are not being fed any food. They may also wear tatty clothes which haven’t been washed in a while. Their personal hygiene may be poor which may make them look dirty and smell. A mental sign may be that they have imaginary friends because they have no real friends. And emotional signs of neglect may be that they over react to attention e.g. instead of just shaking someone’s hand to say hello they go over the top and start hugging them continuously. If I were to find a child/young adult in which I think was being neglected it would be my responsibility to report it as this child is suffering from abuse.
Sexual abuse is a little bit harder to see signs of. Sexual abuse links in with emotional and physical abuse, this is because being sexually abused can make the person have emotional problems such as promiscuity or depression. Examples of this may be that the ‘girl’ pays more attention to men than she does women (because she is being abused by a man she thinks it’s normal to be with men inappropriately). The child may react differently to social situations, such as being sexual with a stranger- this is normal behaviour of someone who is being sexually abused. If I suspected a child/young person of being abused it would be my responsibility to report it to social services.
Along with emotional signs their may be physical signs such as hand marks on their arms where they have been held down to be sexually assaulted. Their could be rope burns on their wrists where they’ve been tied up in order to carry out a sexual act. Smaller signs could be things like the work they produce at school, for example if a young child was drawing penis’s in nursery then this would alert adults to think why does a young child know what a penis looks like in great detail- especially if it were an erect penis.
How should Professionals respond to children that are suspected to be abused?
The first and most important thing to do is find a safe and confidential way of asking the child what is really wrong if they are concerned. I would make sure two adults were present at this conversation to safeguard myself (as this stops any false allegations from occurring?).As a professional I would need to allow the child chance to talk, this includes their really exaggerated stories as I need to listen to all the information in which they have to express and to allow them to see I am interested in what they say and that I ‘believe’ them.
The next thing to do is to record absolutely everything that is said – no matter how small the information. I would need to start with; Where it is taking place, who was present and what was said. I would need to write down exactly how the child said their story e.g. no paraphrasing. As well as recording what the child said I would also need to write down what I said to the child. Whilst speaking to the child I would need to ensure I do not make any promises such as – “I promise not to tell any one what you tell me.” I cannot promise this because I would need to share information if I believed the child to be in harm.
Once the child had told me all they have to tell I will then explain to them exactly what will happen next, whether that be to tell someone else if I think to be appropriate or whether I think they should talk to a family member etc. If I as the professional make a mistake and say something I regret/shouldn’t have said then I still need to record that too. Before leaving the child I would have already made up my mind on what step to take next as I cannot make my decision once they’ve left as I may realise that them leaving may not have been the safest option available.