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Facts About Child Abuse

  • 84 percent of prison inmates were abused as children.
  • One in three girls and one in five boys are sexually abused by an adult at some time during childhood. (Most sexual abusers are someone in the family or someone the child knows, not the proverbial stranger with a lollipop.)
  • Families with four or more children have higher rates of abuse and neglect, especially if their living conditions are crowded or they live in isolated areas.
  • More than 80 percent of abusers are a parent or someone close to a child. Child abuse is far more likely to occur in the child's home than in a day care center.
  • One in thirteen kids with a parent on drugs is physically abused regularly. (Drug and alcohol abuse in the family makes child abuse about twice as likely.)
  • One out of ten babies born today are born to mothers who are abusing drugs. Drinking and smoking heavily during pregnancy also endangers the health of unborn children.

What Kids Can Do

Know your rights. Nobody, including your parents, can: 

  • Hit you hard enough to cause an injury.
  • Leave you by yourself for a long time.
  • Force you or tell you to have any kind of sex with anyone.

Anyone who does any of these things has a problem. They need help.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't believe anybody who says something bad will happen if you talk. Things can only get better than they are.

If you know a kid who is being hurt physically or sexually, call 1-800-243-7337 (The Family Tree, Inc., a local hotline in Maryland) or 1-800-4-A-CHILD (Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline) and talk about it. A counselor will tell you just what to do. Both hotlines are staffed 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

Signs of Child Abuse


  • A child who is apathetic (just doesn't care).
  • A child who suffers from depression.
  • A child who won't take part in play or school activities.
  • A child who is often hostile or aggressive.
  • A child with a loss of appetite.
  • A child who compulsively overeats


  • Any of the signs above.
  • A child who is hungry much of the time.
  • A child wandering outdoors unsupervised.
  • A child unsuitably dressed for the weather.
  • A child who is continually dirty or wearing the same soiled clothes.
  • A child who shows up early or stays late at school.


  • Bruises or welts shaped like an object (belt buckle or electric cord).
  • Bruises in unusual places (back, eyes, mouth, buttocks, genital areas, thighs, calves).
  • Layers of different colored bruises in the same general area.
  • "Sock" or "glove" burns on feet or hands or doughnut shaped burns on buttocks (from forcing the child into hot water).
  • Small round burns from cigarettes.
  • Burns in the shape of an object (iron, fireplace tool, or heater).
  • Rope burns on ankles, wrists, or torso.
  • Adult sized bite marks.
  • Suspicious fractures (doctors and nurses are trained to recognize these).


  • Withdrawal or anti-social attitude.
  • Refusal to undress for physical education or sports.
  • Exaggerated interest in sex or "acting out" sex with other children.
  • Unusually seductive behavior.
  • Fear of intimate contact (hugging or sports)
  • Torn, stained, or bloodied clothing.
Image of scared child

 Ten Things to do Instead of Hurting a Child

  1. Take a deep breath. Take a few more. Remember, you are the adult.
  2. Close your eyes and imagine you are hearing what your child is about to hear, or receiving the same punishment.
  3. Press your lips together and count to 20.
  4. Put the child in a "time-out" chair for a number of minutes. The rule is one minute for each year of age.
  5. Put yourself in a "time-out" chair. Are you really angry at the child or is it something else.
  6. Call a friend to talk about it. If you need to, dial 1-800-243-7337 (The Family Tree, Inc., a local hotline in Maryland ) or 1-800-4-A-CHILD (Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline). Both hotlines are staffed 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
  7. If someone can watch the children, go out for a walk.
  8. Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
  9. Turn on some music. Sing along if you want.
  10. Pick up a pencil and write down a list of helpful words, not words that will hurt. Save the list. Use these words.

Revised January 2, 2013

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