The eyes have been referred to the gateway to the soul. Sometimes they are reflective of psychological problems such as physical and sexual abuse or post traumatic stress syndrome. They are one more thing to observe when abuse is suspected.
Children who have been abused have over stimulation of the amygdala that often becomes a permanent state and results in a state of hypervigilance and agitation. As a result of living in an unpredictable environment that is often harmful they need to be constantly alert for signs of danger. Some characteristic vision behaviors are seen.
Darting eye movements are common in an effort to constantly scan the environment for danger in preparation for fight or flight from the danger. Sometimes children will become completely still with few eye movements, in an effort to avoid attraction form a sexual predator. Direct eye contact may be avoided and become a habitual behavior.Adults often misinterpret this lack of eye contact as evidence of deceit or lying. Pupils are often large reflecting a high level of fear and arousal. Dilated pupils also allow greater awareness of peripheral movement and threats. Sometimes victims of abuse will use a direct aggressive, staring behavior as a challenge to try and ward of an attack, even when no real danger is present.
Children who have been abused may show signs of severe post traumatic stress disorder. This can present at times as glazed unfocused eyes with the “thousand yard stare” off into nowhere. They do not exhibit normal behaviors such as turning towards you when spoken to or reflexive moments to sound or motion.
No specific visual behavior indicates abuse, but these can be indicators when a suspicion of abuse is present.