Thank you for the opportunity to help you with your question!
When you are deciding whether to report, you will most likely deal with two main issues. First, how do you draw the line between abuse and corporal punishment? And second, how do you tell the difference between abuse and accidental injury?
How do you draw the line between abuse and corporal punishment?
In reality, physical abuse is most often caused by unreasonably severe corporal punishment. It’s easy for an adult to cross the line between corporal punishment into abuse because:
- The adult is much larger than the child
- The adult is often angry when the punishment is being administered
Abuse and accidental injury can look similar, but there are important differences:
- Cuts and bruises caused from accidents normally occur in bony areas of the body (elbows, knees, etc.). Accidental injuries to soft tissue areas (stomach, buttocks) are less likely.
- If an injury happens often, it is less likely to be an accident.
- If multiple injuries are present, especially if they are in different stages of healing, it is less likely to be an accident.
- If a series of injuries appear in a pattern or resemble an object (electrical cord, wooden spoon, etc.) the injury may have been inflicted.
- If the child's or caregiver's explanation for the injury is inconsistent with the facts, the injury would be suspect.
The caregiver should only be notified after investigation, because they can make the process difficult if they are responsible.
Please let me know if you need any clarification. I'm always happy to answer your questions.
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