Straight, No Chaser: Learn The Physical Signs of Child Abuse

We need an army to protect children against child abuse. I will intermittently be discussing various forms of abuse, but to start with, I’d like to help you recognize physical signs I tend to look for to potentially identify victims of abuse.
Symptoms include:

  • Black eyes


  • Broken bones that are unusual and unexplained
  • Bruise marks or lashes shaped like hands, fingers, or objects (such as a belt)

child abuse whip marks arm


  • Bruises in areas where normal childhood activities would not usually result in bruising


  • Bite marks

child abuse bite marks

  • Bulging soft spot (fontanelle) or separations in an infant’s skull



  • Burn marks, usually seen on the hands, arms, or buttocks


  • Choke marks around the neck
  • Cigarette burns on exposed areas or on the genitals

child abuse burns

  • Circular marks around the wrists or ankles (signs of twisting or tying up)
  • Unexplained unconsciousness in an infant

If you ever see such things in children, be suspicious, be involved and get help. There are always ‘explanations’ for why things happen to children, but they too frequently seem to defy logic. Of course you can call 911 or the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD). You could save a life.

0 thoughts on “Straight, No Chaser: Learn The Physical Signs of Child Abuse

  1. I think that it is wonderful that you provided this information Dr. Sterling. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that are abused in this country and it never gets reported because most of us feel like it is none of our business, or we don’t want to get our friends, or family members or co-workers in trouble. I know that medical providers, and teachers are obligated to report this type of thing. But how do you make friends, family members, neighbors or coworkers report??? Especially because they may see the signs of abuse before the child makes it to the emergency room.

    1. Thanks for the impassioned response, Stephanie. An individual’s decision as to whether or not to help a child in need is up to them. I certainly have every intention of using this forum to bring this and other important health issues to people’s attention as best I can. I understand it is unpleasant to see and uncomfortable to get involved, but at least people should be reminded that this is all around us and children are dying as a result of this. Thank you.