How to spot and report child abuse

Kinderling News & Features

In Australia, there are around 45 000 children substantiated for abuse, which is 45 000 too many. This is why we need to talk about it and why National Child Protection Week is so important. The national theme for 2017 is 'Child abuse is everybody’s business' so what can we each do to reduce this number?

Dr Katrina Lines is a psychologist and Act for Kids’ Executive Director of Services. She shares a few ways to tell if a child is being abused or neglected.

“Unfortunately, we know that the majority of children [who suffer abuse] are harmed by people who are in a position of trust,” Katrina says. “They’re either part of the family or very well known to the child.”

Listen to Katrina on Kinderling Conversation:

The important thing to remember is that we can’t suspect everyone in our life. “The majority of people don’t abuse or neglect their children, and the majority of people are not going to abuse or neglect your child,” Katrina says.

How can we tell if a child is being hurt?

Signs of abuse and neglect fall under two categories; behavioural and physical.

Behavioural signs include;

  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Acting out
  • Overly submissive, obedient and trying very hard to please.
  • Anxious
  • Distressed
  • Exhibition of distrust
  • Wariness of adults
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty relating to other people, including kids
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fear or avoidance of home or a specific place
  • In severe cases, rocking, humming, sucking or biting excessively
  • Bedwetting
  • Nightmares
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Older children may turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism
  • Suicidal or self-harm
  • Sexual knowledge not appropriate for their age

Physical signs include;

  • Unexplained bruises and injuries
  • Several injuries at different stages of healing

It’s important to watch for these signs in your own child, but also other children in your life. “People like teachers, day care stuff and neighbours who are around kids all the time will notice when something’s wrong,” explains Katrina.

Where can we report abuse and neglect?

“Every one of us can make a difference by asking someone if they’re okay and if they need a hand,” Katrina says.

As well as this, Katrina believes we all need to be educated further in this issue; “We need to educate children about their rights, consent, being the boss of their bodies and telling people when they’re feeling unsafe. And we need to educate adults about abuse, neglect, listening to children and what to do if they’re concerned about a child.”

If you really are concerned about a child’s wellbeing, report your concerns to the statutory agency in your state or territory. Head to to see the information for your area.