Polk County Medical Examiner

Child Abuse

  • The Department of Human Services has the legal authority to conduct an assessment of child abuse when it is alleged that:
    • The victim is a child.
    • The child is subjected to one or more of the eight categories of child abuse defined in Iowa Code section 232.68:
    • Physical abuse
    • Mental injury
    • Sexual abuse
    • Child prostitution
    • Presence of illegal drugs
    • Denial of critical care
    • Manufacturing or possession of a dangerous substance (defined in Iowa Code 232.2)
    • Bestiality in the presence of a child
  • The abuse is the result of the acts or omissions of the person responsible for the care of the child.
  • If you suspect child abuse, contact the local law enforcement and the Iowa Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-362-2178.
  • For more information go to Iowa Department of Human Services Child Abuse website: http://www.dhs.state.ia.us/children_family/abuse_reporting/child_abuse.html
  • Physical Abuse
    • Physical Abuse is any act which results in the non-accidental physical injury of a child. Inflicted physical injury occurs because of unreasonably severe corporal punishment or unjustifiable punishment.
    • Physical indicators include:
      • Damage to the skin such as bruises, bums, human bite marks, abrasions, and scars.
      • Damage to internal organs or skeleton including the brain.
      • Location of injury. Abuse is usually visible on the back of a child's body from the neck to the knees, but typically not on shins, elbows, or knees.
    • Behavioral indicators include:
      • Parent/caretaker delays or neglects seeking care for a child.
      • Child is excessively passive, compliant or fearful--or excessively aggressive or violent.
      • Child/parent/caretaker attempts to hide injuries or the child is wearing clothes inappropriate for the weather.
  • Neglect
    • Neglect is the "negligent treatment or mistreatment of a child." The state defines two types of neglect.
    • "Severe neglect" means the negligent failure of a parent or caretaker to protect the child from severe malnutrition or medically diagnosed, non-organic failure to thrive.
    • "General neglect" means the negligent failure of a parent or caretaker to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision when no physical injury to the child has occurred.
    • Note: This list is intended to provide a general overview of the major types of abuse. For more information, contact the police.
    • Indicators of neglect include:
      • The child lacks adequate medical or dental care.
      • The child is dirty, demonstrates poor personal hygiene or is inadequately dressed for weather conditions, or is always sleepy or hungry.
      • The home is unsafe, unsanitary, or lacks heating or plumbing.
  • Sexual Abuse
    • Sexual Abuse is any activity sought to attain sexual gratification in the presence of a child. There are a number of possible indicators of sexual abuse that, taken separately, may not be signs of abuse. The list below should be considered within the context of other behaviors and the overall situation.
    • Indicators includes:
      • The child discloses directly or indirectly that sexual abuse has occurred.
      • The child has a sexually transmitted disease.
      • Genital discharge or infection.
      • Physical trauma or irritation to the anal/genital area.
      • Age-inappropriate understanding of sexual behavior.
      • Excessive sexualized behavior.
  • Emotional Maltreatment/Abuse
    • Parents can inflict emotional abuse on their children by excessively verbally assaulting them which include belittling, screaming, and threatening as well as sarcasm, unpredictable responses or inconsistent behavior.
    • Indicators include:
      • The child is withdrawn, depressed or apathetic. Or the child is extremely aggressive and maybe considered a behavior problem.
      • The child is overly rigid in following instructions of teachers or other adults.
      • The child displays signs of emotional turmoil including repetitive rhythmic movements.

Contact Us

To report a death call (515) 286-3333
1801 Hickman Rd
Des Moines, Iowa 50314
(515) 286-2102 (Days)
(515) 286-3333 (Other times)
Fax: (515) 286-2208