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4. How might we recognise abuse?

Warning signs: They are only a guide, they are not necessarily proof of abuse, but may be an indication of:-

a. Changes or regression in mood or behaviour, particularly where a child withdraws or becomes clinging.

b. Nervousness/watchfulness.

c. Sudden under-achievement or lack of concentration.

d. Changed or inappropriate relationships with peers and/or adults.

e. Attention seeking behaviour.

f. Persistent tiredness.

g. Running away/stealing/lying.

Other areas where leaders should be vigilant are:-

a. Any injuries not consistent with the explanation given for them, or where differing explanations have been received.

b. Injuries which occur to the body in places which are not normally exposed to falls, rough games, etc.

c. Injuries and illnesses which have not received medical attention.

d. Instances where children are kept away from the group or school inappropriately.

e. Reluctance to change for, or participate in, games or swimming.

f. Any signs of neglect, undernourishment or inadequate care.

g. Any allegations made by a child concerning sexual abuse.

h. Child with excessive preoccupation with sexual matters, and detailed knowledge of adult sexual behaviour, or who regularly engages in age inappropriate sexual play.

i. Sexual activity through words, play or drawing.

j. Child who is sexually provocative or seductive with adults.

k. Inappropriate bed sharing arrangements at home.

l. Severe sleep disturbance with fears, phobias, vivid dreams or nightmares, sometimes with overt or veiled sexual connotation.

One or more warning signs may be evident.

Many symptoms of distress in a child can point to abuse, but there are other explanations too. This (together with conflicting medical opinion), has sometimes been the reason for falsely accusing parents of sexual abuse. It is important that the above signs are not taken as indicating that abuse has taken place, but that the possibility should be considered far more than in the past. They should make us stop and think - not jump to conclusions inappropriately!

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