What are signs that someone is being abused?

Note: You are neither expected nor encouraged to diagnose whether someone is struggling with issues related to abuse. This information can help you recognize when professional intervention may be needed.

Signs of abuse are not always easy to recognize. Someone who has experienced, or is experiencing, abuse could show a number of signs that indicate something is wrong, but abuse may be happening even if there are no outward signs. Also, signs that might indicate abuse could be caused by other difficulties. Talking to the victim can be a good first step to understanding what is happening. However, victims often have a difficult time sharing that they have been or are being abused. If there is any indication of abuse, read “What should I do if I know or suspect someone is being abused?”

As children of God and brothers and sisters, we have a responsibility to be aware of the needs and concerns of others and to reach out to them in love. Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, former Young Women General President, taught, “[We] take care of each other, watch out for each other, comfort each other, and are there for each other through thick and thin” (“Sisterhood: Oh, How We Need Each Other,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 119).

General Warning Signs

Victims of abuse often show more than one warning sign. Signs of abuse may vary based on the type of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, or verbal) and the age of the person being abused.

Victims of abuse may display the following warning signs:

  • Acting differently than they normally do
  • Exhibiting increased aggressive behavior
  • Being jumpier or more on guard
  • Having difficulty with sleep or having nightmares
  • Withdrawing and not wanting to be around other people
  • Losing interest in activities they once liked
  • Having unexplained physical injuries
  • Being more moody (angry, depressed, sad) than normal
  • Being preoccupied with sex
  • Engaging in harmful behaviors (this could include self-harm, drug use, and risky or unhealthy sexual behavior)

These signs alone do not mean that the person is being abused. To learn more about how to talk to a person you suspect may be experiencing abuse, read the article “What should I do if I know or suspect someone is being abused?”

Community and Church Resources

(Some of the resources listed below are not created, maintained, or controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While these materials are intended to serve as additional resources, the Church does not endorse any content that is not in keeping with its doctrines and teachings.)