Personal Safety

Child Abuse: Physical abuse

What is physical abuse?

Physical abuse occurs when a child suffers or is likely to suffer significant harm from an injury inflicted by a child’s parent or caregiver. The injury may be inflicted intentionally or may be the inadvertent consequence of physical punishment or physically aggressive treatment of a child. The injury may take the form of bruises, cuts, burns or fractures.

How can abuse and neglect be recognised?
Behavioural or physical signs which assist in recognising child abuse are known as indicators. A single indicator can be as import- ant an indicator as the presence of several indicators. A child’s behaviour is likely to be affected if he/she is under stress. There can be many causes of stress, including child abuse, and it is important to find out specifically what is causing the stress.

How can physical abuse be recognised?

Physical indicators include:

  • Bruises, burns, sprains, dislocations, bites, cuts
  • Fractured bones, especially in an infant where a fracture is unlikely to occur accidentally
  • Poisoning
  • Internal injuries

Possible behavioural indicators include:

  • Showing wariness or distrust of adults
  • Wearing long sleeved clothes on hot days (to hide bruising or other injury)
  • Demonstrating fear of parents and of going home
  • Becoming fearful when other children cry or shout
  • Being excessively friendly to strangers
  • Being very passive and compliant

For those who are concerned about a child in relation to child abuse or neglect to making a report to child protection services in Victoria.

Protective Concerns
You are concerned about a child because you have:

  • Received a disclosure from a child about abuse or neglect
  • Observed indicators of abuse or neglect
  • Been made aware of possible harm via your involvement in the community external to your professional role At all times remember to:
  • Record your observations
  • Follow appropriate protocols
  • Consult notes and records
  • Consult with appropriate colleagues if necessary
  • Consult with other support agencies if necessary

Child abuse is a serious problem. In Victoria, if you suspect a case of child abuse or are mandated to report abuse, then you can contact Child Protection for advice. For immediate help To report concerns that are life threatening call Victoria Police 000. To report concerns about the immedi- ate safety of a child within their family unit, call the Child Protection Crisis Line 13 12 78 (24 hours, 7 days a week, toll free within Victoria) For more information visit Department of Human Services –


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Who to Contact

Victoria Police
Ph: 000

After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service
Ph: 131 278 (5.00pm - 9.00am Monday - Friday, 24 hours on weekends and public holidays)

CASA Crisis Line
Ph: (03) 9344 2210
Ph: 1800 806 292 - Rural free call

Domestic Violence & Incest Resource Centre
Ph: (03) 9486 9866