While children can be traumatized in the same ways as adults, children react differently to abuse and neglect. Your imagined reactions or motivations for a young victim can be unrealistic if you don’t research ahead.
♠ They exhibit extremes in behavior: Cry often or cry very little. Show no real expectation of being comforted. They are excessively fearful or seem fearless of adult authority. They are unusually aggressive or extremely passive or withdrawn.
♠ Exhibit a sudden change in behavior or exhibit regressive behavior such as wetting their pants or bed, thumb-sucking, whining, or becoming uncommonly shy or passive.
Mental Characteristics/Signs of Abuse
♠ Wary of physical contract, especially with an adult. They may be hungry for affection yet have difficulty relating to children and adults. They may feel they can’t risk getting close to others.
♠ They appear to be different from other children in physical and emotional makeup. This often is described by their caretakers as being different or bad.
♠ If the abuse is from only one specific parent, they may subconsciously associate the danger with that particular gender and become withdrawn in that gender’s presence.
Teachers watch for this when assigning projects to classmates.
♠ Learning disabilities- attention wanders and they easily become self-absorbed.
♠ They’re tired and often fall asleep in class.
♠ To avoid trouble at home, the child willingly or eagerly goes to school early and remains after classes.
In other cases, abused children may be habitually truant or late to school, which could be from the abuser keeping the child home long enough for evidence of abuse to disappear.
♦ They may bear bruises, welts, sores, or other skin injuries, which seem to be untreated.
Children often wear long sleeves to hide marks of abuse, even on hot days. Typically abused children are inappropriately dressed for the weather. They could be dressed inadequately and suffer frostbite or illness from exposure to the weather.
♦ They always appear unclean.
Signs of Abuse at Home
♣ Often left alone or with inadequate supervision. Sometimes the house doesn’t seem childproof or even child-friendly (Think of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. Count Olaf provides room for the Baudelaire siblings, which doesn’t make Olaf’s home their new home).
♣ They are given inappropriate food, drink, or medication.
♣ Sleep deprivation? An adult could make the child do chores all night or constantly interrupt their sleep cycles.
♣ Verbal abuse: Adults calling a child stupid or worthless can be ridiculously harmful to a child’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. Depending on how much interaction they have with the world, they may be grown into believing they’re worthless, as a sincere truth. They won’t question that their classmates are better than them because their parents or guardians have raised them to accept the verbal abuse.
♣ The silent treatment from the whole family. Family members pretend the child doesn’t exist, not talking to them and pretending not to hear the child, even when they need something.
♣ Isolating the child from any potential friends, making them come straight home from school every day. Usually, this involves jailing them inside the house on weekends and forbidding any methods of communication such as the phone or Internet. This grossly decreases the chances of the abuse being found out or for the child to find support through friends.
♣ Ice baths (This is an older form of abuse, belonging to another time. However, that doesn’t mean an elderly foster parent or previously abused adult wouldn’t enact this punishment.)
Why abuse claims are ignored.
Adults usually associate any mental disability with the constant need for attention and decide that their abuse claims are just another way they’re trying to get attention. But what a writer needs to understand is that mental disabilities are often an underlining cause of frustration to adults and perhaps even escalates abuse. Writing such settings can become dry or very intense, so remember whose perspective the story is written in and which characters are meant to incite a reader’s sympathy.
Lack of physical proof can dissuade investigators. Fear keeping the victim from validating a claim can also help. Since the ones abusing a child are often the child’s providers, it’s tough for the child to have a voice or figure out that the abuse is not okay. Children raised in abusive or neglectful environments may not recognize that their situation isn’t normal or acceptable.
References Prompts and Advice: For a Writing Community Scriptsocialwork. "Characteristics of an Abused or Neglected Child." ScriptSocialWork. N.p., 12 Dec. 2016. Web. 11 Jan. 2017.