This 1 Disturbing Sign Means Someone Was a Victim of Child Abuse

When on the look-out for signs of child abuse, it’s common to look at the individuals when they are, well, children. But what about looking for signs of past abuse in adults? It isn’t unheard of for abuse to go unrecorded, only for symptoms and behaviors to manifest in adulthood.

There is one sign, however, that should set off an alarm that someone may have been a victim of child abuse.

But first, what constitutes abuse

Woman holding her sad child.

Child abuse can take on many forms. | Tatyana Tomsickova/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Child abuse takes on many forms, according to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children. There is obvious physical or sexual abuse, and also neglect. The ASPCC categorizes these different kinds of abuse and neglect as “physical abuse, emotional maltreatment, neglect, sexual abuse and witnessing family violence.”

Number of reported cases of child abuse

Young sad girl sits outside pondering.

Reporting child abuse is the first step toward preventing it. | Margotpics/iStock/Getty Images Plus

The stats surrounding abuse are staggering, and upsetting. According to the National Children’s Alliance, there were an estimated 683,000 instances of childhood mistreatment and neglect in the U.S. in 2015 alone. It is also reported that “neglect” is the most common form of abuse. According to the same pool of data, a parent is the abuser in four out of five instances.

Abuse getting reported in adulthood

Woman sits with a therapist.

Therapy can help victims of child abuse move forward with their lives. | Lisafx/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Surprisingly, most instances of child abuse aren’t investigated when the individuals are children. The National Children’s Alliance reports that 77% of individuals investigated for abuse in 2015 were over the age of 18. Which makes looking for signs of abuse even more interesting …

The one sign that someone was a victim

An unhappy couple sits on a couch during an argument.

Victims of child abuse often get into abusive relationships. | Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Child abuse can bring about a form of PTSD — and the signs of it can manifest in the victim’s adulthood. Many factors play into adults developing PTSD following childhood abuse. Behaviors that may suggest PTSD include aggressive behavior, night terrors, and loss of interest in everyday activities, just to name a few.

One giveaway is that a victim might get into abusive relationships as an adult, and be more likely to engage in toxic relationships that reflect their abusive childhood.

How trauma manifests in adulthood

An adult woman sits with her head down.

Past childhood trauma can affect adults in serious ways. | Kiatipol/iStock/Getty Images Plus

The National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse explains that many victims disassociate to cope with abuse at a young age. Therefore, many of the PTSD symptoms associated with child abuse might not manifest until the victim is older.

How difficult is it to see this sign of abuse?

A therapist sits with her patient in an office.

Mental health experts are trained to understand past trauma. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Help is certainly available for adult survivors. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to pinpoint an instance of PTSD that is related to childhood mistreatment. The PTSD symptoms, NAASCA explains, mimic symptoms of other chronic conditions. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse can have the same general symptoms.

Where to get help

Members of a therapy group discuss a topic.

Support is available for those who need it. | Bowdenimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Although this heinous act impacts many people, there is aid available for adult victims of childhood mistreatment and neglect. Help for Adult Victims Of Child Abuse is one such hub, which provides a support system run by adult survivors.

Many of these outlets also give links to connect survivors with therapists and other forms of professional help.