What is Abuse?

“Child abuse is defined by law (Title 10A, Section 1-1-105) as harm, threatened harm, or failure to protect from harm or threatened harm, to the health, safety, or welfare of a child by a person responsible for the child’s health, safety, or welfare, including, but not limited to, nonaccidental physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation.”

Harm or threatened harm to the health or safety of a child means any real or threatened physical, mental, or emotional injury or damage to the body or mind that is not accidental, including, but not limited to, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect, or dependency.

Heinous and shocking abuse includes, but is not limited to, aggravated physical abuse that results in serious bodily, mental, or emotional injury. Serious bodily injury means injury that involves:

  • A substantial risk of death
  • Extreme physical pain
  • Protracted disfigurement
  • A loss or impairment of the function of a body member, organ, or mental faculty
  • An injury to an internal or external organ or the body
  • A bone fracture
  • Sexual abuse or sexual exploitation
  • Chronic abuse, including, but not limited to, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or sexual exploitation that is repeated or continuing
  • Torture, including, but not limited to, inflicting, participating in, or assisting in inflicting, intense physical or emotional pain upon a child repeatedly over a period of time for the purpose of coercing or terrorizing a child for the purpose of satisfying the craven, cruel, or prurient desires of the perpetrator or another person
  • Any other similar aggravated circumstance

Abused children need your help.

Abused children are innocent victims who need your help. View the typical signs and causes of abuse. Then learn how to respond to a child’s disclosure of abuse.
Help is available

The Department of Human Services – Child Welfare Division (DHS) and other state and community agencies provide a number of services and programs to help children and their families prevent and reduce the incidents and effects of child abuse and neglect.

If abuse is reported, the Child Abuse Network brings together medical, mental health, investigative and legal professionals from multiple agencies to try to determine whether child abuse has occurred.

State law requires EVERY PERSON to report suspicion of abuse to the Department of Human Services.

If you suspect child abuse call:
Oklahoma Hotline – 800.522.3511
National Hotline – 800-4ACHILD (800.422.4453)

Types of Abuse

Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is any act, regardless of intent, that results in physical injury or threat of physical injury to a child. Physical abuse may result when a child is kicked, thrown, shaken, burned, cut, choked, squeezed or otherwise battered.

Sexual Abuse or Exploitation
Child sexual abuse is the exploitation of a child for the sexual gratification of an adult or significantly older person. It is called incest if it occurs between a child and any family member.

According to Oklahoma law, sexual abuse includes but is not limited to incest, rape, and lewd or indecent acts or proposals made to a child. Sexual exploitation includes but is not limited to allowing, permitting or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution, lewd, obscene, or pornographic photographing, filming, or the depiction of a child in those acts. Sexual abuse can also include verbal stimulation, obscene phone calls, exposure, voyeurism, fondling, attempted intercourse, and vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse.

Neglect is the failure or omission to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, special care that is made necessary by the physical and mental condition of the child, or abandonment.

Signs of Abuse and Neglect
It is important to remember that the following could also be signs of conditions other than child abuse.

Signs of Physical Abuse

Physical Indicators

  • Unexplained bruises, redness or swelling
  • Unexplained burns, particularly in identifiable shapes
  • Frequent accidents and unexplained fractures or lacerations
  • Bite marks, welts or bald spots

Behavioral Indicators

  • Psychosomatic illnesses
  • Poor social skills
  • “Flinches” easily, seems easily frightened
  • Fearful of returning home
  • Frequent absences or tardiness
  • Unkempt or “sloppy” appearance
  • Clingy
  • Hyperactive or easily distracted
  • Lies excessively or gives implausible explanation for injuries
  • Exaggerates
  • Moves awkwardly or acts as if sore
  • Avoids changing clothes in front of others (i.e., changing into gym clothes)
  • Wears clothes that cover the entire body, even in hot weather
  • Frequent emotional outbursts, either excessively angry or tearful
  • Isolated, seems depressed; may seem “flat” in appearance or joyless
  • Avoids questions about caregivers
  • Chronic runaway
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Disruptive, disrespectful or aggressive
  • Cruelty to animals or younger children
  • Learning disorders, poor school performance

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Physical Indicators

  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Genital pain, itching and/or bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Problems with sleep (too much, too little, nightmares
  • Problems with appetite (eats too much or too little)

Behavioral Indicators

  • Excessive masturbation
  • Sexualized play or behavior
  • Depression
  • Unexplained fears
  • Regressive behavior
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggression
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Pseudomaturity/promiscuity
  • Difficulty concentrating, problems in school
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Animal cruelty
  • Suicide attempts
  • Repeated attempts to run away
  • Alcohol/drug use
  • Any significant changes from what is normal for that particular child

Signs of Neglect

Physical Indicators

  • Poor hygiene, body odor, dirty or scaly skin
  • Inappropriate clothing for weather (e.g.; heavy clothing in hot weather)
  • Torn or dirty clothing
  • Underweight/malnourished
  • Distended stomach
  • Speech disorders (i.e., stuttering)
  • Underdeveloped
  • Failure to thrive
  • Unattended medical or dental needs
  • Lack of age appropriate supervision
  • Abandonment
  • Chronic illnesses (skin ulcers, allergies, etc.)
  • Thinning hair

Behavioral Indicators

  • Withdrawn, isolated
  • Aggressive or hyperactive
  • Begging, stealing or hoarding food
  • Poor social skills
  • Frequent school absences or tardiness
  • Listless, lethargic or falls asleep in school
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Child states caregivers are absent or child is alone frequently
  • Delinquent behavior
  • Secretive
  • Assumes “adult role” or seems “parentified”