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Indicators of abuse or neglect

The information on this page is for mandated notifiers.

If you are a concerned member of the public, see the child abuse report line page on the sa.gov.au website for information about making a report to the child abuse report line.

Always call 000 if it is an emergency

Child abuse can happen to any child in any family. The abuse may be:

  • physical
  • sexual
  • emotional
  • neglectful

The following lists should be used as a guide only to help determine if your suspicions of abuse are well-founded, and should be reported to the child abuse report line.

Keep a record of any observations by using the concerns checklist (PDF 27KB). Information recorded from the checklist greatly enhances the quality of any subsequent reports to the child abuse report line.

Sexual abuse

The following indicators may indicate sexual abuse:

  • genital injuries
  • bite marks
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • persistent soiling or bed wetting
  • sleep disturbance
  • inappropriate sexual behaviour based on the child’s age
  • promiscuous affection seeking behaviour
  • excessive masturbation which does not respond to boundaries or discipline
  • obsessive and compulsive washing
  • wary of physical contact with others
  • unusually fearful of having their nappy changed.

Staff should also refer to responding to problem sexual behaviour (PDF 1.01MB) for more information.

Physical abuse

The following indicators may indicate physical abuse:

  • bruises in unlikely places (face, back, ears, hands, buttocks, upper thighs and soft parts of the body)
  • inconsistent or absent explanation of bruises
  • any bruising on a baby
  • pressure marks from fingers on the face, chest or back
  • weal, ligature or bite marks
  • skull fracture, subdural bleeding, multiple fractures of different ages
  • suspicious burns
  • poisoning or significant over medicating.

Emotional abuse

The following indicators may indicate emotional abuse:

  • avoiding home (particularly if the abuser is in the family home)
  • running away or continually staying at friend’s houses
  • fear of the dark, not wanting to go to bed, bedwetting or nightmares
  • lying or stealing
  • lack of trust in adults
  • poor self-image/self-esteem, poor academic performance, poor peer relationships
  • secretive, demanding or disruptive behaviour.

Neglect

The following indicators may indicate neglect:

  • failure to thrive
  • developmental delay
  • prone to illness
  • sallow or sickly appearance
  • abnormally high appetite, stealing or hoarding food
  • smelly or dirty appearance
  • untreated medical conditions.

If you are still unsure whether you should contact the Child Abuse Report line, see what not to report.

Contact

Child Abuse Report Line (CARL)

Telephone: 13 14 78