How to prove child mistreatment or abuse?

As it happens with cyberbullying or cyberbullying child abuse and child abuse have become more common than it may seem. The Study on the Evolution of Violence against Children in Spain according to the Victims of this decade, prepared by the Anar Foundation, showed that in that period these acts quadrupled.

This study also highlights that the age of the victims has decreased, many attacks begin at around 9 years of age. In general terms, there has been a 22% increase in acts of violence or abuse directed against children between the ages of 5 and 12.

What is child abuse?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines child abuse as acts of abuse and neglect of those under 18 years of age. This very broad concept includes physical and psychological abuse, sexual abuse, commercial exploitation or any other that harms the child's physical or mental health, as well as its dignity or affects its development.

In most cases these acts are committed by those who have responsibility for the minors or with whom they have a relationship of trust. Giving himself an abuse of power.

Today exposure to gender violenceis also considered a form of child abuse.

Prove child abuse

Causes of child abuse

Experts point out that child abuse is a multifactorial problem, that is, it can be caused by different causes. But among them we can highlight the following:

Pathologies and mental disorders of parents

People with mental disorders who are not properly treated often have impulse control problems, low self-esteem, little empathy, and traits that make them more susceptible to addictions such as gambling, drugs or alcohol.

This personality tends to degenerate into acts of violence against the children that in some cases can manifest themselves in the form of physical or verbal aggression and in others in the form of neglect of the affective and material needs of the children.

However, experts estimate that only 10-15% of abusive parents fit this profile.

Economic causes

The inability to find a job or having a job that is not enough to cover the basic needs of the family can leave parents taking out their frustrations with their children causing child abuse.

This does not imply that in families with more economic resources there are no abuses, which also exist, but statistics show that these problems are more common in the lower social strata.


For years the father has been considered the head of the family and an authority for all members of the family unit. This has generated roles that still persist in many homes today.

A parent who feels imbued with total authority over all family members is more likely to use excessive discipline and educational methods.

Child abuse

Family history of child abuse

As it happens with gender violence, which is a behavior that usually passes from generation to generation. Parents who suffered some type of child abuse or mistreatment by their parents during their childhood have a greater chance of ending up committing acts of violence against their children.

Types of child abuse


Includes all types of actions involving blows and mistreatment of minors, from the lightest to the most serious.

Marks, bruises, bruises, and even lesions often warn of such a problem.

This type of child abuse is one of the most serious that a minor can suffer. In extreme cases it can even lead to death.

Psychological or emotional

These are behaviors and attitudes that last over time and affect the child's self-esteem and her mood.

The behaviors that can occur within this type of child abuse are very varied. By way of example we can highlight the shouting, insults, humiliation, contempt and even indifference.

This type of abuse usually generates significant consequences that can extend throughout the child's life.

Physical or cognitive neglect, neglect

In some cases, child abuse is committed by omitting certain actions. In this case, the damage to the child derives from the fact that her parents or guardians do not pay due attention. 

The minor is left in a state of abandonment in which his basic physical and affective needs are not met. 

Some examples are not taking children to school, skipping visits to the pediatrician, not taking care of their hygiene or not feeding them properly.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse includes all conduct that involves sexual contactbetween a minor and an adult or between two minors when they are notThey are cognitively prepared for it. It is understood that in these cases there is an abuse of power.

This includes rape, but also other behaviors such as touching, sexual exploitation and even solicitations with sexual connotations even without physical contact.


We could consider it a subtype of sexual abuse. It generally occurs when children or adolescents are used for sexual exploitation purposes.

But it also has other aspects such asinitiating children or young people into the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

Labor exploitation

This type of child abuse is not very frequent in Spain, but it does occur in many parts of the world. It implies forcing minors to work and also profiting from their work.

Prenatal abuse

These are behaviors performed by pregnant women that can cause harm to the fetus. In many cases they are directly related to the lifestyle of the pregnant mother: alcohol abuse, poor nutrition, emotional indifference, etc. 

Munchausen syndrome by proxy

Parents who suffer from this problem exacerbate their children's illnesses or even cause them illnesses they don't have . The objective of the parent is to always be in a position of power with respect to the child and also to obtain attention from her environment.

prove child abuse

How to detect child abuse?

The effects that can be seen in minors who are victims of abuse and mistreatment depend on the type of family problem they are suffering. In fact, the range of indicators of violence is so wide that it is almost impossible to list it completely, so we are going to indicate just a few examples to detect child abuse:

Indicators of physical child abuse

  • Bruises or bruises in different areas of the body.
  • Cigarette burns.
  • Bone fractures.
  • Cuts.
  • Fear of being in the company of their parents.
  • Alertness to possible dangers.

Signs of psychological child abuse

  • Delays in language development.
  • Delays in cognitive development.
  • Apathy.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Anxiety reactions.
  • Low self-esteem.

Indicators of neglect or abandonment

  • Constant absences from school.
  • Suffers from minor illnesses on a recurring basis.
  • He spends a lot of time alone.
  • He is usually dirty.
  • You are not receiving necessary routine medical care.
  • Inappropriate eating habits.

Signs of psychological or emotional abandonment< /font>

  • Apathetic behavior.
  • Mistrust of adults.
  • Extreme behaviour, either he is too aggressive or he is too passive in the face of aggression.

Indicators of child sexual abuse

  • Genital irritations.
  • Sexual knowledge inappropriate for his age.
  • Difficulty walking and sitting down.
  • Sexual behaviors inappropriate for their age.
  • Mistrust of adults.
  • Urinary or genital infections.

Signs of corruption

  • Drug or alcohol use.
  • Trafficking in illegal substances.
  • Constant violation of the rules.

Indicators of labor exploitation

  • Repeated and unexcused truancy.
  • Difficulty performing recreational activities.
  • School failure.
  • Continuous fatigue.

Signs of prenatal abuse

  • Withdrawal syndrome.
  • Microcephaly.
  • Intrauterine growth retardation.

Indicators of Munchaüsen syndrome by proxy

  • Recurrent appearance of diseases.
  • Unclear diagnosis.
  • Multiple admissions to different hospitals.


prove child abuse

How to prevent child abuse?

The fight against child abuse must be transversal, since it must involve the public powers and also the whole of society.

Governments are launching aid, education and support programs for families so that adults develop adequate skills that allow them to be able to raise their children in a healthy environment at all levels.

Teachers, paediatricians and other professionals who work with minors must receive specialized training to be able to detect cases of abuse and maltreatment.

All adults have a responsibility to speak up if we believe a minor may be in trouble.

What does it say the law on child abuse?

The Spanish legislator is aware that minors must enjoy special protection, which is why several articles of the Penal Code make direct reference to crimes committed against minors

This is the case of prostitution of minors, injuries to minors, sexual assaults, etc.

Negligence in care by parents is also typified. This includes behaviors such as abandonment or even non-payment of child support if the parents are separated.

What responsibility civil or criminal has an aggressor?

Crimes of abuse and ill-treatment of minors are especially serious from an ethical and social point of view, which is why greater penalties are imposed than if the victim were an adult

The usual thing is that a custodial sentence is imposed, which will be more or less long depending on the crime committed. This sentence is usually accompanied by others that try to protect the minor by avoiding contact with the adult who has caused them harm. That is why visits can be restricted or even  suspend the parental authority of the perpetrator of the crime.

How to prove mistreatment or child abuse?

In some cases the effects of the abuse are so obvious that they serve as evidence in themselves, but this usually happens when it is physical or sexual abuse. In the rest of the cases it can be very difficult to prove that a crime of this type is taking place.

Spy recorders and hidden cameras to prove child abuse. Can I use spy cameras and recorders as evidence in court?

When a crime occurs in the privacy of a home it becomes very difficult to prove, hence alternative measures are sought to obtain evidence.

There are already several cases of fathers or mothers who suspected that their children were being mistreated or abused by the babysitter or even by relatives or friends and have chosen to install recorders or spy cameras in the house.

In the vast majority of cases, the jurisprudence is favorable toaccept these recordings as valid evidence. This is because there is often no other way to demonstrate what is happening.

If the recording shows that a crime is being committed and it was made solely for this purpose, it will be accepted at trial.

Where to report child abuse?

There are several associations dedicated to the fight against child abuse and you can go to them. However, Fapmi (Federation of Associations for the Prevention of Child Abuse) recommends notifying suspicions directly to the Police.

If you witness the abuse at the moment it happens, you can call 091 directly. If, on the contrary, you believe that there is a situation of abuse of the minor that occurs continuously over time, you better report it to the police station.

You can be the only way to stop child abuse or maltreatment

If you are aware of or suspect that there is any type of child abuse of a minor report it immediately.

Children are totally defenseless against this type of behavior and we adults are the only ones who can help them. A simple call or a visit to the police station can open the door for that minor to get out of the hell he is living.