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Recognizing When a Child's Injury or Illness Is Caused by Abuse

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2014
28 pages

This guide provides information to help law enforcement differentiate between physical abuse and accidental injury during a child abuse investigation.


This guide provides information about the many indicators of child maltreatment and abuse to help first responders and law enforcement differentiate between physical abuse and accidental injury. The guide also identifies questions that law enforcement should address during an investigation; describes how to conduct a caretaker assessment when a child is injured; and highlights ways to work with the medical community to distinguish types of injuries and bruises. Advancements in medicine have helped further distinguish between accidental and abusive injuries. An injury by itself does not indicate abuse. This fourth edition reflects the most current literature on how to distinguish between types of injuries. The history of how the injury occurred is vital when determining if abuse occurred.

Date Published: July 1, 2014