THE SIGNS (6/10)
From my experience, kids that hug every adult that is nice to them.
Obviously not all of them, but kids I worked with who had experienced physical and emotional abuse often bonded very quickly with friendly adults because they longed for positive attention and love so desperately.
THE SIGNS (7/10)
Neglect: dirty clothes, smell of urine/dirty body, taking food home from school, not having appropriate wear for the season (no boots in winter), sleeping too much at school
Abuse: wearing clothes out of season (longer shirts when it's 85 out), marks that have stories that don't make sense, defacating at an older age, over sexualized behavior
All of these on their own may not mean anything, but together with different signs can be an indicator to watch closely.
THE SIGNS (8/10)
For older kids (middle school/high school), perfectionism is a huge sign. The quieter a student is, especially if they do well enough to not cause problems, the more I pay attention. If a child is very withdrawn (both from adults and other children), rarely touches others, and rarely lights up with joy, that's a huge warning sign that something is wrong. Often it's related to some sort of trauma/life issue (not always abuse, but almost always something very negative).
THE SIGNS (9/10)
Most DV abusers are controlling, look for signs the child and/or spouse is being controlled. This will usually be presented as caring and as discipline and because of this when kids try to talk about it they get shut down and dismissed. So for example a child or young person that isn't allowed to go out very much, has limited activities, seems to be constantly grounded. Look for a young person whose parents won't let them do reasonable things like go to parties, socialise others and make it difficult for them to have friends.
Controlling parents are usually but not always ok spending money on the person because it's easy and means you look good to the neighbourhood. Don't think because they have nice things that they have a nice home. If they have a mobile phone are their parents constantly calling and texting demanding to know where they are or what they are doing?
Is the child indecisive? It may be because they're used to being controlled and don't know how to be independent. Look for a child who goes along with whatever other people say, they might be afraid to have their own opinion. Look for a child that is very quiet, always tries to behave really well...they may be afraid of punishment. Above all look for kids that have low self esteem.
Meet the parents. 1) Are they incredibly charming? If so why, why is someone putting so much time and effort into being liked by everyone, what are they hiding? This is a HUGE sign for an abuser because they're making sure nobody believes that they could be abusive. 2) How do they speak about the child? Are they constantly critical, always believe the worst of them, struggle to name positives? Do they talk vaguely about how awful the child is without giving solid examples? 3) When the parent talks about the child are they really talking about themselves e.g. "I got Sarah to start karate lessons because I knew it would be good for her, I take her every week, it costs me a fortune" is a totally different statement to "Sarah's so good at karate I'm so proud of her". 4) DV abusers are selfish, nothing's ever their fault, relationships move fast, they're jealous, controlling, Jekyll and Hyde (they can just snap), substance misuse and have unrealistic expectations (look for constant whining and moaning).
Look for someone that goes out of their way to be around children and vulnerable people, e.g. Football coach, foster parent, befriending people with kids. Are they looking for someone to abuse? Look for something that doesn't fit e.g. one parent has chronic health issues and is genuinely not a catch but the new partner is way above their league....is the new partner really interested in the child?
Obviously you're looking for a pattern of behaviour and this isn't an exact science. But don't be afraid to look into something that doesn't feel right or that's raising flags.
THE SIGNS (10/10)
Sexual abuse: One big thing that may not be super obvious to people is bed-wetting. If a child is at a point in their life where they are potty trained and don't really have accidents anymore, this can be a red flag. If bed-wetting becomes consistent, it can be an indicator of sexual abuse. I've also seen children who are victims of sexual abuse not necessarily just wetting the bed, but in drawers or on the floor. Of course, medical issues should be evaluated because there's always a chance for enuresis or something similar. In younger kids, over sexualized behaviors beyond what most would consider "normal childhood exploration" type of things. Acting out inappropriately in sexual ways is a red flag because at young ages, this is typically a learned behavior. For children in diapers, if they become very scared or nervous during diaper changes (or any child during bath time). They may grab their private parts or try to cover them up or just be downright scared to have an adult taking their clothes off of them. Also, if a child happens to mention they have a secret with "Uncle Joe" or "Aunt Sara" or whomever, it's important to ask non-leading questions to find out what this secret is. In a non-mean way, children are pretty easy to manipulate when you're trying to pull important information from them. If a child (or adult, for that matter) ever comes to you saying they've been sexually abused in any way, PLEASE believe them. Gather basic information only (who, where, when, will they see the perpetrator today) and then call 911. They will complete a forensic interview with a child with a trained professional who knows how to ask appropriate questions and this interview will be video taped so the child does not have to be re-traumatized by telling their story over and over to multiple people.
Physical Abuse: unexplained bruising that doesn't fit the age category. If you have a 6 year old with bruised up shins who can't remember how he got the bruises, that may not be a big deal since kids are always running around and falling down! But if that same 6 year old has bruises, say, on their upper arms that look like finger tips or on their bottom that look like a belt, and can't say what happened - it's probably because they were told not to if the bruises were caused by abuse. This is tough because sometimes kids will outright tell you "Mom hit me with a belt on my legs, see the belt mark? I'm scared and don't want to go home" but other children, despite the abuse, have an extreme allegiance to the person abusing them because they've been told things like "If you tell anyone what happened, they'll take you away from me, you'll never see me/your sibling/your dog, etc again." When a child wants to open up about this, it's helpful to ask the same question a few different ways to "check" for consistency in the child's story. You can't expect perfection but a child who is being abused and is ready to disclose that will be able to tell you the circumstances over and over without the story changing much. Children who are mad that their parent grounded them will change up their story and eventually admit to lying in a typical case. This does happen.
Neglect: This is a huge range. It can be a child showing up to school every day hungry and in dirty clothes. A child who spends all of their time and energy worrying about their sibling (typically their younger sibling) is often finding themselves in a parentified role where they may be the caretaker for a younger sibling, often a sign of some neglect going on at home. A child who is always tired and tells you they can't sleep at night because mom and dad yell/fight so much, or because they were up all night taking care of their infant sibling. A child who comes to you saying they want to harm themselves and have a plan to do so, but their parent doesn't respond to this appropriately - this is often not taken seriously by other adults because "it's just a cry for attention" but even if that's the case, they're lacking some kind of important attention and are asking for help in the only effective way they can think of because just asking has not worked for them in the past. A child complaining often about the pain in their teeth or a chronic health problem can mean their parent(s) is neglecting their dental/physical health needs. A child with chronic lice can mean the living conditions at home may not be suitable for them. There is a huge range of things that could fall into this category.
It all comes down to communication. When a child wants to talk to you about something sensitive like this, take them seriously. Don't brush them aside or tell them you're too busy or act like they're making things up. They've chosen YOU to confide in which means they trust you, it is up to you to take the appropriate actions to help protect this child (calling 911 and the local Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline). You have the power to protect a child - exercise this power.
H/T: Ask Reddit