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Child Abuse

If you know a child who is being hurt physically or sexually, call the hotlines below.

  • The Alice C. Tyler Village of Childhelp in northern Virginia, call 540-399-5073. You can also contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and a counselor can tell you what to do.
  • The Family Tree, Inc., a local Maryland hotline, call 1-800-243-7337  24 hours a day, 7 days a week to speak with a counselor.
A young boy crying.

Asking for Help

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.

Signs of Child Abuse


Emotional signs of child abuse include:

  • Apathy (not caring)
  • Depression
  • Refusal to take part in play or school activities
  • Hostile or aggressive
  • Loss of appetite
  • Compulsive overeating


Signs of child neglect include:

  • Any of the emotional signs above
  • Consistent hunger
  • Wandering outdoors unsupervised
  • Unsuitable dress for the weather
  • Consistently being dirty or wearing the same soiled clothes
  • Showing up early or staying late at school


Physical signs of child abuse include:

  • Bruises or welts shaped like an object (belt buckle or electric cord)
  • Bruises in unusual places (back, eyes, mouth, buttocks, genital areas, thighs or calves)
  • Layers of different colored bruises in the same general area
  • "Sock" or "glove" burns on feet or hands
  • 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)


Sexual signs of child abuse include:

  • Withdrawn or anti-social attitude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

Facts about Abuse

Abuse in the Family

  • 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.
  • 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.

Drugs and Abuse

  • 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.
A scared girl on a set of stairs.

Avoiding Abuse

Follow these steps to avoid abusing a child.

  • Take a deep breath. Take a few more. Remember, you are the adult.
  • Close your eyes and imagine you are hearing what your child is about to hear, or receiving the same punishment.
  • Press your lips together and count to 20.
  • Put the child in a "time-out" chair for a number of minutes. The rule is one minute for each year of age.
  • Put yourself in a "time-out" chair. Are you really angry at the child or is it something else.
  • Call a friend or the aforementioned hotlines if you need to talk about it.
  • If someone can watch the children, go out for a walk.
  • Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
  • Turn on some music. Sing along if you want.
  • Pick up a pencil and write down a list of helpful words, not words that will hurt. Save the list. Use these words.
Revised May 1, 2020         


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