Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is deliberately hurting a child causing injuries such as broken bones, cuts, bruising or burns. These injuries could be the result of hitting, having objects thrown at them, shaking, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child or young person. Sometimes parents or carers may fabricate or induce by making or causing the symptoms of illness by maybe giving the child medicine that is not needed causing them to be unwell.

Signs which may suggest physical abuse:

  • Multiple bruising on different areas of the body;
  • Bruising that is of a different colouring suggesting repeated injuries over a period of time;
  • Any bruising to a baby before they can walk;
  • There is no adequate explanation of why there is bruising on the body;
  • Fingertip bruising to the chest, back, arms or legs;
  • Bruises which are in the shape of a object or hand;
  • Bruises in places which are not likely to have happened during play such as back of the legs, abdomen, groin area;
  • Scalp that is bruised or the child has swollen eyes which could be a result of hair being violently pulled;
  • Bruising around the mouth especially in young babies;
  • Grasp marks on arms and legs or on the chest of a small child;
  • Finger marks – there maybe 3-4 small bruises on one side of the face and none on the other;
  • Symmetrical bruising – similar or same patterns of bruising on the legs, arms, head or body especially around the ears or around the eyes;
  • Outline bruising – marks from belts, hand prints;
  • Linear bruising which could be caused through the act of striking which may be seen on the buttocks, back, thighs and arms;
  • Defensive wounds or bruising commonly seen on Forearms, upper arms, hands and even the feet and legs;
  • Bites – the marks are usually oval or circular in shape with clear impression of the teeth. If the distance is more than 3cm across, this could be a sign that an adult or older child may have caused this;
  • Fractures or broken bones – if the child is in pain, has swelling and discolouration over a bone or joint then this should be suspected. The parent or carers should be aware this because the child will be in pain and will cry, feel uncomfortable, unsettled;
  • Burns or Scalds – It may be difficult to identify between accidental and non-accidental burns and scalds but in general burns and scalds with clear outlines are suspicious. Burns or scalds can be from hot liquids, flames, hot objects, chemicals or electricity. They can be on the hands, buttocks, back and scalds may be on the lower limbs both arms and legs. The mark may be in the shape or implement something e.g. cigarette burn. There may be multiple burn or scalds;
  • Other injuries and health issues – scarring, effects of being poisoned such as vomiting, seizures or feeling drowsy, or the child may experience respiratory problems.