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Child & Elder Abuse

Elder abuse and child abuse and neglect – both physical and psychological – assume a wide range of presentations and can have numerous lasting effects on a victim.


child abuse

Child Abuse

It is the purpose of the Fargo Police Department to protect the health and welfare of children by encouraging the reporting of children who are known to be or suspected of being abused or neglected. Be an advocate for children by knowing the signs of abuse and reporting child abuse. Remember, you are reporting the suspicion of child abuse – even if you aren’t sure, it’s better to let authorities check it out. You might save a child’s life!

When you have concerns for a child’s well-being, the indicators listed below may help guide you in your thought process. Many of these “symptoms” or “signs” could be caused by things other than abuse or neglect. Generally, these indicators do indicate that a child’s safety may be at risk and, at the very least, the situation should be assessed by a professional who is able to determine the causes of these symptoms and offer the help and assistance necessary to reduce the risk to a child

  • Signs of Physical Abuse
    • Unexplained bruises and/or welts on the face, throat, upper arms, buttocks, thighs or lower back in unusual patterns or shapes which suggests the use of an instrument (belt buckle, electric cord) on a child in various stages of healing that are seen after absences, weekends or vacations.
    • Unexplained burns, cigarette burns, especially burns found on palms, soles of feet, abdomen, buttocks; immersion burns producing “stocking” or “glove” marks on hands and feet; “doughnut shaped” on buttocks or genital area.
    • Rope burns.
    • Infected burns indicating delay in treatment; burns in the shape of common household utensils or appliances.
    • Behavioral extremes (withdrawal, aggression, regression, depression to over-involvement with strangers).
    • Inappropriate or excessive fear of parent or caretaker.
    • Antisocial behavior such as substance abuse, truancy, running away, fear of going home.
    • Unbelievable or inconsistent explanation for injuries.
    • Lies unusually still while surveying surroundings (for infants).
    • Unusual shyness, wariness of physical contact.
  • Signs of Sexual Abuse
    • Torn, stained or bloody underclothes.
    • Frequent, unexplained sore throats, yeast or urinary infections.
    • Somatic complaints, including pain and irritation of the genitals.
    • Sexually transmitted diseases.
    • Bruises or bleeding from external genitalia, vagina or anal region.
    • Pregnancy.
    • The victim’s disclosure of sexual abuse.
    • Regressive behaviors (thumb-sucking, bed wetting, fear of the dark).
    • Promiscuity or seductive behaviors.
    • Disturbed sleep patterns (recurrent nightmares).
    • Unusual and age-inappropriate interest in sexual matters.
    • Avoidance of undressing or wearing extra layers of clothes.
    • Sudden decline in school performance, truancy.
    • Difficulty in walking or sitting.
  • Signs of Emotional Abuse
    • Eating disorders, including obesity or anorexia.
    • Speech disorders (stuttering, stammering).
    • Developmental delays in the acquisition of speech or motor skills.
    • Weight or height level substantially below norm.
    • Flat or bald spots on head (infants).
    • Nervous disorders (rashes, hives, facial tics, stomach aches).
    • Habit disorders (biting, rocking, head-banging).
    • Cruel behavior, seeming to get pleasure from hurting children, adults or animals; seeming to get pleasure from being mistreated.
    • Age-inappropriate behaviors (bed wetting, wetting, soiling).
    • Behavioral extremes, such as overly compliant-demanding; withdrawn-aggressive; listless-excitable.
  • Signs of Neglect
    • Poor hygiene, including lice, scabies, severe or untreated diaper rash, bedsores, body odor.
    • Unsuitable clothing; missing key articles of clothing (underwear, socks, shoes); overdressed or under-dressed for climate conditions.
    • Untreated injury or illness.
    • Indicators of prolonged exposure to elements (excessive sunburn, insect bites, colds).
    • Height and weight significantly below age level.
    • Unusual school attendance.
    • Chronic hunger, tiredness, or lethargy.
    • Assuming adult responsibilities or reporting no caretaker at home.

Additional Child Resources:

North Dakota Child Protection Program provides information about programs offered by the state of North Dakota and the Child Protection Program.

North Dakota Century Code: Child Abuse and Neglect provides the laws of North Dakota in reference to abuse and neglect.

Red River Children's Advocacy Center provides information about what the center does, and provides information for families regarding crimes against children.


elder abuse

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. An older adult is someone age 60 or older. The abuse occurs at the hands of the caregiver or a person the elder trusts. If you are an elder who is being abused, neglected, or exploited, tell at least one person. Tell your doctor, a friend, or a family member whom you trust. If you see an older adult being abused or neglected, don’t hesitate to report the situation. Don’t assume that someone else will take care of it or that the person being abused is capable of getting help if he or she really needs it. Many seniors don't report the abuse they face even if they’re able. Some fear retaliation from the abuser, while others believe that if they turn in their abusers, no one else will take care of them. When the caregivers are their children, they may be ashamed that their children are behaving abusively or blame themselves: “If I’d been a better parent when they were younger, this wouldn’t be happening.” Or they just may not want children they love to get into trouble with the law.

Six frequently recognized types of elder abuse include:

  1. Physical. This occurs when an elder experiences illness, pain or injury as a result of the intentional use of physical force and includes acts such as hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping and burning.
  2. Sexual. This involves forced or unwanted sexual interaction of any kind with an older adult. This may include unwanted sexual contact or penetration or non-contact acts such as sexual harassment.
  3. Emotional or psychological. This refers to verbal or nonverbal behaviors that inflict anguish, mental pain, fear or distress on an older adult. Examples include name calling, humiliating, destroying property or not letting the older adult see friends and family.
  4. Neglect. This is the failure to meet an older adult's basic needs. These include food, water, shelter, clothing, hygiene and essential medical care.
  5. Financial. This is illegally or improperly using an elder's money, benefits, belongings, property or assets for the benefit of someone other than the older adult. Examples include taking money from an older adult's account without proper authority, unauthorized credit card use and changing a will without permission.

Who are the perpetrators?

  • Family members who may have substance abuse, gambling or financial problems; may stand to inherit and feel justified in taking what they believe is "almost" or "rightfully" theirs.; fear that their older family member will get sick and use up their savings, depriving the abuser of an inheritance; have had a negative relationship with the older person and feel a sense of 'entitlement'; have negative feelings toward siblings or other family members whom they want to prevent from acquiring or inheriting the older person's assets.
  • Predatory individuals who seek out vulnerable seniors with the intent to exploit them.
  • Caretakers

Report Abuse and Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult

If you have a concern about someone who you feel might be a vulnerable adult, you are encouraged to visit the North Dakota Department of Human Services Reporting Abuse and Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult website.

Additional Elder Resources:

North Dakota Department of Human Service: Adults and Aging Services



What are the signs of elder abuse?

Indicators are signs or clues that abuse has occurred. Some of the indicators listed below can be explained by other causes or factors and no single indicator can be taken as conclusive proof. Rather, one should look for patterns or clusters of indicators that suggest a problem.

  • Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain. Bank statements and cancelled checks no longer come to the elder's home. Unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities. Unusual activity in the older person's bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts or ATM withdrawals.
  • Legal documents, such as powers of attorney, which the elder person didn't understand at the time he or she signed them.
  • A caregiver expresses excessive interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person.
  • Belongings or property are missing.
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents.
  • Slap marks, most pressure marks, and burns or blisters. Explanations that don't seem to fit with the pattern of physical injury. Bruises around the breasts or genital area and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases. Untreated bedsores, need for medical or dental care, unclean clothing, poor hygiene, overgrown hair and nails, and unusual weight loss.
  • Withdrawal from normal activities, unexplained change in alertness, or other unusual behavior.