10 Signs of Abuse That Friends Often Miss - Child Abuse Prevention, Treatment & Welfare Services | Children's Bureau



10 Signs of Abuse That Friends Often Miss

Mrs. Johnson knew something was wrong at her neighbor’s house.   She couldn’t quite put her finger on it.  She would keep telling herself she didn’t want to be a bother, it wasn’t her place, this wasn’t her business, and she didn’t need to butt into someone else’s private affairs. Then, one morning, she saw police cars at the neighbors.  Mrs. Johnson felt tremendous guilt that she had not taken any action previously.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute.  Nearly 25% of women experience at least one physical assault during adulthood by a partner.  A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.  Approximately five children die every day because of child abuse.   Over 70% of these children are under the age of 3.  Sometimes child and spousal abuse have the same signs.

At Children’s Bureau we foster healthy relationships and help many victims of abuse find a supportive recovery. Here are ten signs of child abuse and spousal abuse most people often miss:

  1. Withdrawal from family and friends

If you have noticed the person you love continually declining to go out to parties, social gatherings, birthday parties, etc., not answering to calls or text messages, not enjoying or outright abandoning activities they used to enjoy, there may be something serious going on at home.  Be observant of their behavior and try to make contact with them.  They may be hesitant to open up, so be sure to find a safe environment for them to feel comfortable and protected.

  1. Seems afraid to go home

Be observant if a friend is constantly trying to get you to stay out later or asking to go with you on your errands or other mundane activities.  If they seem scared to go home or are avoiding being there, look for additional red flags and gently approach the situation.

  1. Easily startled

You may notice your loved one to be more guarded and edgy.  If you tap them on the shoulder and they jump or have a fearful look in their eyes, take the time and ask them if there is anything wrong.  Remember to be patient, for they may be scared to open up.  If there is a serious problem, be prepared with resources to get their life back on track.

  1. Covers up, even on a hot day

Some people are easily chilled by nature. However, if your friend has begun to dress much more conservatively than before, it is possible they are trying to hide bruises.  Be observant of their behavior and attempt to make contact.  Make sure to provide a welcoming environment and approach the situation without judgement.

  1. A loss of self-confidence

Anyone can experience this at some point in their lives.  Perhaps you are letting external pressure get to you or you wish you could be better at something.  But, for those who are victims of repeated abuse, they can find it very hard to trust anyone or find joy in the simple things they used to like.  This is one of the greatest battles of overcoming abuse but through time and healthy relationships a full recovery can be made.

  1. Seems fearful or anxious of doing something wrong

There is nothing wrong with wanting to please someone or not wanting to mess up because you are competitive by nature or like to try your best.  However, for those who have been abused, it is taken to the extreme because they are terrified of displeasing their abuser.  Pay attention if your loved one is overly nervous or apologetic over a simple mistake.

  1. Suddenly becomes more aggressive

Be observant of recent aggressive behavior of someone who has not shown this type of behavior before.  For example, if someone was hit by a ball, a person with no history of abuse will first assume that he was hit accidentally while someone with a history of abuse would believe that being hit was intentional and would respond aggressively.  Gently talk to them about the reason for this anger and watch for additional signs.

  1. Attempts to run away from home

Some teens run away from home because of issues with their parents; others flee their home to escape an abusive situation.  If you know someone who has run away, offer them a safe place to stay and alert the police of the situation. Whatever you do, do not let the abuser into your house.

  1. Develops an eating disorder

It is estimated around 30% of people with eating disorders have been a victim of some type of abuse.  Many sufferers feel that the eating disorder is a way to cope with the previous abuse, this is why it is important to address potential post-traumatic stress as they get help in escaping the situation.

  1. Depression

Adults who experienced abuse in childhood can experience long-term effects including depression. The best advice for people who know someone with depression is to be there for them.  Recovering from depression can take time because the recovery process requires identifying symptoms and their sources, changing thoughts and behaviors, and altering brain structure and chemistry. If you have a loved one who’s behavior is changing and you’re worried they might struggle with depression, try provide a comfortable space for them to open up to you so you can help.

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