Image of young girl with black eye

It is important that people working with children are aware of the indicators of child abuse and have the confidence to respond to any indication that a child may have been abused.


Indicators can be identified in various ways. Children and young people may tell an adult about the abuse occurring (what is known as a disclosure), however you may identify injuries on a child or young person that could lead you to believe they are at risk of abuse. Some indicators of child abuse are:

  • bruising, particularly in the face, head or neck region
  • multiple bruising or injuries - for example, burns, scalds, sprains, dislocations or fractures
  • injury left untreated
  • differing versions of how an injury occurred
  • child/relative advising of abuse
  • a child, referring to someone else being abused, may mean him/herself
  • sexual behaviour that is inappropriate for the age of the child
  • Talking about sexual acts, pornography, sexualised questions to adults or other children (that are inappropriate for the age of the child)
  • nightmares/bedwetting/going to bed fully-clothed
  • a high level of distrust of other people
  • an inability to relate well with adults and/or children
  • extreme attention-seeking behaviour, disruptive or aggressive behaviour and bullying
  • seeking indiscriminate or inappropriate adult affection.

The presence of one indicator does not necessarily suggest that a child is the subject of abuse. People working/volunteering with children need to consider the context in which the indicators are observed and use common sense. If you feel any doubt contact your state or territory’s child protection agency - see our Quick Reference Guide.


So what are the laws in relation to child protection?