Red Flags – Disability Services

Detecting & Reporting Abuse

Children, youth and adults with disabilities who are abused or witness violence experience emotional, physical or developmental consequences. Some examples include low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, loneliness, isolation, fear, depression, developmental delays, physical injuries or additional disabilities. Many survivors of abuse demonstrate a marked change in behavior in response to the abuse.

Although no single behavior is an absolute indicator of abuse or neglect, the following list includes signs or indicators:

  • Feeling angry, overwhelmed, numb, withdrawn, detached or crying for no apparent reason
  • Feelings of being unclean
  • Mood swings and/or emotional outbursts
  • Expresses desire to die, loss in faith, attempts suicide
  • Difficulties with concentration
  • Overly compliant
  • Regression in behavior (bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, or rocking)
  • Fear of being alone or with a particular person
  • Fear of being touched or shying away from being touched
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Eating disorders or a sudden increase or decrease in eating
  • Nightmares, restlessness or difficulty sleeping
  • Experiences a rapid progression of physical deterioration
  • Vaginal or rectal pain, bleeding, itching, swelling, infection or discharge
  • Unusual or inappropriate expression of affection
  • New or detailed interest in or knowledge of sexual matters that are unusual for developmental age
  • Self-injurious behaviors
  • Poor hygiene
  • Bed sores
  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Lacking needed adaptive devices such as a wheelchair, hearing aid, walker, dentures, communication device
  • Person discloses abuse or neglect

In Texas, it is mandatory to report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of a child or adult with a disability or an older adult over the age 65 to the Adult Protective Services (APS) program of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services or other investigative authority. The Texas APS hotline to report suspected abuse is 1-800.252.5400. If you live outside Texas, check with your state’s Protective and Regulatory Services agency about reporting requirements for your state.

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