Child Abuse Signs and Symptoms

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Child abuse can happen anywhere and to anyone. It occurs in several different forms including physical, emotional, verbal or mental abuse, sexual assault or neglect. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring children are safe and protected. We encourage family members, neighbors, educators, caregivers and entire communities to recognize the signs below and report if a child is being abused or neglected.

If you suspect a child under the age of 18 is being abused or neglected or is at risk for abuse or neglect, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-352-6513. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Signs and Symptoms of Child Abuse and Neglect 

Child abuse - injuries Unexplained injuries
Burns, cuts and bruises are visible signs of physical abuse. Explanations for these injuries may be unconvincing.


Child abuse - behavior

Changes in behavior
Abused children often appear anxious, depressed, hyperactive, aggressive, hostile, withdrawn or scared. Some may return to earlier behaviors such as wetting the bed or express an irrational fear of strangers or the dark.


Child abuse - fearFear of going home
Abused children may display anxiety about leaving school or going somewhere alone with the abuser.


Child abuse - eatingChanges in eating
Fear and stress can alter an abused child’s eating habits, resulting in gaining or losing weight.


Child abuse - sleepChanges in sleeping
Abused children may appear tired, have difficulty sleeping or experience frequent nightmares.


Child abuse - schoolChanges in school performance
Abused children have difficulty concentrating and have frequent absences that can often be attributed to parents trying to hide the child’s injuries.


Child abuse - hygieneLack of personal care or hygiene
Abused and neglected children may appear dirty, uncared for and lack suitable clothing for the weather. They may


Child abuse - experimenting

Risk-taking or self-harming behaviors
Youth who have experienced abuse may begin experimenting with drugs or alcohol, or attempt to run away. They may also intentionally damage or injure their bodies (self-harm), or attempt suicide. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


Child abuse - sexualInappropriate behaviors
Children who have been sexually abused may display inappropriate sexual behavior or contact, explicit language, or have knowledge inappropriate for their age.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-352-6513.

What information do I need to provide when calling the Child Abuse Hotline?

After calling The Child Abuse Hotline, professional, trained specialists will conduct guided interviews to assist the caller in providing critical information needed to assess the situation. That information includes:

  • Demographic information of child(ren) and household members
  • Type of abuse or neglect suspected
  • Is the child in imminent danger?
  • Location of the child and caregivers
  • Is there a protective caregiver present?
  • Does the alleged perpetrator have access to the child?
  • General functioning of child and caregivers
  • Any safety threats for first responders such as domestic violence, weapons, vicious animals, dangerous people, etc.

What is Imminent Danger?

Imminent danger is defined as an emergency situation in which the welfare or life of the child is threatened. Such an emergency situation exists when there is reasonable cause to believe that any of the following conditions threaten the health or life of any child in the home:

  • Non-accidental trauma inflicted by a parent, guardian, custodian, sibling, babysitter or other caretaker which can include intentionally inflicted major bodily damage such as broken bones, major burns or lacerations or bodily beatings. This condition also includes the medical diagnosis of battered child syndrome which is a combination of physical and other signs indicating a pattern of abuse
  • Sexually abused or sexually exploited
  • Nutritional deprivation
  • Abandonment by the parents, guardian or custodian
  • Inadequate treatment of serious illness or disease
  • Substantial emotional injury inflicted by a parent, guardian or custodian
  • Sale or attempted sale of the child by the parent, guardian or custodian
  • The parent, guardian or custodian’s abuse of alcohol, or drugs or other controlled substance has impaired his or her parenting skills to a degree as to pose an imminent risk to a child’s health or safety

Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect

Anyone may report suspected abuse or neglect, including sexual abuse or sexual assault, or observing a child being subjected to conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect. These circumstances should be reported to the West Virginia Department of Human Services immediately and not more than 24 hours after suspecting this abuse or neglect.

Certain persons are mandated reporters and required to make a report not more than 24 hours after suspecting this abuse or neglect. These persons are:

  • Any medical, dental or mental health professional
  • Christian Science practitioner
  • Religious healer
  • School teacher and other school personnel
  • Social service worker
  • Child care or foster care worker
  • Emergency medical services personnel
  • Peace officer or law-enforcement official
  • Humane officer
  • Member of the clergy
  • Circuit court judge
  • Family court judge
  • Employee of the Division of Juvenile Services
  • Magistrate
  • Youth camp administrator or counselor
  • Employee, coach or volunteer of an entity that provides organized activities for children
  • Commercial film or photographic print processor

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-352-6513.