How To Help Keep Your Child Safe From Abuse

We live in a society where it is crucial to educate and talk to everyone about how to keep children safe from abuse. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring child’s safety, not only parents and families, but us as early childhood educators, doctors, health care professionals, your neighbour and community. Each person has a mandatory responsibility in protecting children from abuse and reporting any concerns you may have.

There are four different types of abuse, these are: emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse. Below are the definitions of what each type of abuse encompasses.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when a child’s emotional, psychological or social well-being and sense of worth is continually battered. This includes confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilisation, or any other treatment that may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth. We also include exposure to Family Violence in this category.


Neglect is a pattern of behaviour that occurs over a period of time and results in impaired functioning/development. It is a failure to provide for a child’s basic needs.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can be caused from smacking, punching, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, burning or throwing the child. Physical abuse may also result from excessive or inappropriate discipline or violence within the family, and is considered abuse regardless of whether or not it was intended to hurt the child. Physical abuse may be the result of a single episode or of a series of episodes.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse includes acts or behaviours where an adult, older or more powerful person uses a child for a sexual purpose. There are 2 different types of child sexual abuse. These are called contact abuse and non-contact abuse.

• Contact abuse involves touching activities where an abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration. It includes: sexual touching of any part of the body whether the child’s wearing clothes or not; rape or penetration by putting an object or body part inside a child’s mouth, vagina or anus; forcing or encouraging a child to take part in sexual activity; making a child take their clothes off, touch someone else’s genitals or masturbate.

• Non-contact abuse involves non-touching activities, such as grooming, exploitation, persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet and flashing. It includes: encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts; not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others; meeting a child following sexual grooming with the intent of abusing them; online abuse including making, viewing or distributing child abuse images; allowing someone else to make, view or distribute child abuse images; showing pornography to a child; sexually exploiting a child for money, power or status (child exploitation).

Here are some physical clues to child abuse and some of the different types of behaviours you may see because of there being one or more types of abuse occurring for children.

Physical Clues to child abuse:

Physical abuse

• Unexplained bruises, welts, cuts, abrasions

 • Suspicious locations include: Face, lips, gums, mouth, eyes torso, back, buttocks, back of legs, external genitalia

• Bruises of different colours in different stages of healing

• Shape of suspicious injuries

• Clustered, form regular patterns

• Teeth marks, hand prints, fingertips

• Imprint of article (e.g. belt)

• Unexplained burns

• Small circular burns

• Immersion burns

• Burns showing a pattern (e.g. iron)

• Rope burns on arms, legs, neck, torso

• Unexplained injurie

• Fractures of skull, facial bones, spine

• Dislocations of hip or shoulder

• Multiple fractures at different stages of healing

• Bald patches resulting from hair pulling

• Any fractures in infants


• Inappropriately dressed for season or weather

• Is often very dirty or unbathed

• May have severe untreated nappy rash or other persistent skin disorders resulting from lack of hygiene

• Inadequately supervised

• Left with inappropriate care-giver

• Has unattended health problems

• Malnourished

• Inadequate housing

• Non-organic failure to thrive

Emotional abuse

• Bed-wetting or bed soiling

• Frequent psychosomatic complaints

• Non-organic failure to thrive

• Appears pale, emaciated, has sunken cheeks

• BMI extremely low (e.g. wrinkled buttocks)

• Dehydration (skin may feel like paper)

• Prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea

• Falling behind significant milestones

• Malnutrition

• Dressed differently to, or has deprived physical living conditions to, other children in the family

Sexual abuse

• Unusual or excessive itching or pain in the anogenital

• Torn, stained or bloody underwear

• Bruises, lacerations, redness, swelling or bleeding in the anogenital area

• Blood in urine or stool

• Pain experienced in urination or bowel movement

• Sexually transmitted disease

• Urinary infection

Behavioural Clues to child abuse:

Physical abuse

• Cannot recall how injuries occurred

• Offers inconsistent explanations

• Is wary of adults or of a particular individual

• May cringe or flinch if touched

• May display a vacant stare or frozen watchfulness

• May be extremely aggressive or extremely withdrawn

• Indiscriminate affection-seeking behaviour

• Extremely compliant or eager to please

 • Tries to protect parents or caregiver

• Acts out negative behaviour or language in play

• Frequently provokes punishment

• Dressed inappropriately to hide bruises or other injuries

• Afraid to go home

• Describes abusive situations

• Regressive behaviour

• General sadness

• Could have vision or hearing delay

• Is aggressive to animals or other children Sexual Abuse

• Age-inappropriate sexual play with toys, self, others, e.g. demonstrates explicit sex acts

• Age-inappropriate sexual drawings or descriptions

• Unusual or sophisticated sexual knowledge

• Refuses to go home, or to another’s home for no apparent reason

• Discloses or describes sexual activity or hints at it

• Comments like “I’ve got a secret” or “I don’t like uncle”

• Fear of certain people

• Fear of certain places (bathroom, bedroom)

• Regressive behaviour


• Developmental lags, possible global delays

• Demonstrates lack of attachment to carers

• Demonstrates indiscriminate attachment to other adults

• Is left at home alone or unsupervised

• Demanding of affection or attention

• May steal food

• Has a poor social skill

• Has no understanding of basic hygiene

• Discloses

Emotional abuse

• Developmental lags, possible global delays

• Depression, anxiety, withdrawal or aggression

• Self-destructive behaviour

• Overly compliant

• Displays extreme attention-seeking behaviour

• Extreme inhibition in play

• Models negative behaviour in play (spanking, yelling at dolls)

• Frequent psychosomatic complaints

• Nightmares, poor sleep patterns

• Antisocial behaviour

• Lack of self-esteem

• Obsessive behaviours

• Appears generally sad

Sexual Abuse

• Age-inappropriate sexual play with toys, self, others, e.g. demonstrates explicit sex acts

• Age-inappropriate sexual drawings or descriptions

• Unusual or sophisticated sexual knowledge

• Refuses to go home, or to another’s home for no apparent reason

• Discloses or describes sexual activity or hints at it

• Comments like “I’ve got a secret” or “I don’t like uncle”

• Fear of certain people

• Fear of certain places (bathroom, bedroom)

• Regressive behaviour

If you would like some further information on child protection here are some really helpful links.


• Booklet: Sexual Abuse SAY NO! Published by Sexual Abuse Education (Rotorua)

• Booklet: Working Together: An inter-agency guide. Oranga Tamariki (2018)

• Booklet: How can I tell? Published by Child Matters (Hamilton) 07 838 3370

• Leaflet: Common and infrequent sexual behaviours in children ages 2-12. Published by Sexual Abuse Education (Rotorua)

• Parent Leaflet: What can you do about child sexual abuse? Sexual Abuse Education

• Leaflet: When a child tells. Sexual Abuse Education (Rotorua)

• Website:

• Website:

If you believe a child or someone is in immediate danger call 111 for police for immediate response.

To make a non urgent but serious report call Oranga Tamariki – Previously known as Child Youth and Family CFYS.


Oranga Tamariki: 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459)

Special Education Traumatic Incident Coordinator 0800 84 83 26

Here at Elm Tree we have a very extensive child protection policy. Our staff complete training on child protection at a minimum of every two years. We complete courses and review our policy and go over different scenarios so we can be prepared in different circumstances that may arise.

We use the acronym TED for when abuse is disclosed.

T – Tell me more

E – Explain to me what happened

D – Decide what to do next – Together

We never act alone when going through an abuse concern. We have two key child protection staff members at the centre that work together alongside the appropriate team and seek outside agency support to ensure we are providing and protecting children as best we can. As their advocate we will always do what’s right by the child – every time.

If you have any questions about child protection, please feel free to get in contact with me, I’m more than happy to help.

Warm regards,

Nicola and the Elm Tree Team.