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How Can You Report Child Abuse When There Are No Signs of Abuse?


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3/2/2012
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Not every type of child abuse will have clear symptoms. Children may be too young to know they are being mistreated, or children who are old enough to voice their concerns might be ashamed of the abuse being inflicted on them.

Perhaps a child is being physically abused by one of their babysitters and the babysitter threatened punishment if the child confesses the abuse. Maybe a child’s parents are emotionally abusing them with pressure for better grades in school. Alternatively, a child may be sexually abused by someone they trust and embarrassed to seek help.

The recent murder case of Christopher Scott Childers’ infant son, the baby who Childers’ is being charged with killing, is being labeled a child abuse case. The state had sent a social worker to the Childers’ home last year, but at that time the social worker found no signs of abuse.

In most cases, someone will spot one of the typical signs of child abuse: sudden changes in behavior, bruises, overly compliant or too responsible, comes to school early or stays late to avoid going home or avoids going to school (basically avoiding the place where the abuse is happening).

If abuse is emotional, without physical evidence like other forms of abuse, how can someone prove child abuse or neglect? According to the NC Division of Social Services, abuse is defined as “the intentional maltreatment of a child and can be physical, sexual, or emotional in nature.” Neglect, however, is defined as “the failure to give children the necessary care they need.” Anyone who suspects a child is being mistreated, or who believes a child has died as the result of abuse, should report their suspicions to the NC Division of Social Services. A team of people work for the state and investigate reports of potential child abuse and neglect. Social workers will research the child’s school and home life, interview the child, their parents and caregivers, teachers and neighbors. Legally, the social worker is allowed to interview the child without the presence of the child’s parents or guardians.

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