Straight, No Chaser: The Physical Signs of Child Abuse


Given how often this topic is in the news, we must continue to drill certain points home. This Straight, No Chaser provides visual examples of the consequences of child abuse. A child’s body doesn’t care if the wounds were meant to injure or just to punish. The long term effects aren’t limited by family traditions of similar behavior. We need an army to protect children against child abuse. A separate post will discuss the mental signs and consequences 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.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.

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1 Comment

Filed under General Health and Wellness, Pediatrics/Kids Health, Trauma

One response to “Straight, No Chaser: The Physical Signs of Child Abuse

  1. I want to know who would ignore any of this anyway :/ .