What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse occurs when someone, whether through action or failing to act, causes emotional harm, physical harm, injury, death, or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many different types of abuse such as; emotional abuse, exploitation, neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. Children may be directly (victim) or indirectly (witness) impacted by abuse. Being abused or witnessing abuse or violence may be experienced as a traumatic event and may require mental health services. Click here to go to the Caregiver Handbook: Understanding Abuse and the Healing Process to learn more about supporting your child and understanding trauma. See below for more information for sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect and witnessing abuse or violence.
Physical Abuse occurs when someone causes a non-accidental physical injury to a child. Some physical abuse behaviors include: beating, biting, choking, hitting, kicking, punching, pulling hair or suffocating. Click here to go to the Caregiver Handbook: Understanding Abuse and the Healing Process to learn more about physical abuse and its impact; or click here to go to Childhelp.org to learn more about physical abuse (and other types of abuse) and its impact.
Neglect occurs when a child is not provided the care, supervision, affection and support needed for health, safety and well-being. There are different types of neglect, such as, physical neglect, emotional neglect, medical neglect and educational neglect. Some neglect behaviors include: not providing appropriate supervision, failing to provide food, drink or weather appropriate clothing, isolating the child from friends and loved ones, exposing a child to domestic violence, not seeking medical help when a child is seriously hurt or ill, not enrolling a child in school or providing appropriate home-schooling or allowing a child to be absent from school too much. Click here to go to Childhelp.org to learn more about neglect (and other types of abuse) and its impact.
Witnessing Abuse or Violence occurs when a child sees, hears or is used as part of an abusive or violent act. Children may witness physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic or intimate partner violence, or school or community violence. Click here to go to the Caregiver Handbook: Understanding Abuse and the Healing Process to learn more about witnessing abuse or violence and its impact.
Sexual Abuse occurs when someone forces, coerces, or tricks a child into sexual contact or acts intended for the sexual gratification of that person. Sexual abuse may include touching or non-touching behaviors. Some sexual abuse behaviors include: communicating with a child in a sexual manner, indecent exposure or “flashing”, exposure to pornography(viewing of and/or participating in), kissing, rubbing or touching the child’s private parts or making the child touch the offender, oral, genital and/or anal contact, vaginal or anal penetration with a penis, finger or object, sexual intercourse and/or coerced sexual acts between children. Click here to go to the Caregiver Handbook: Understanding Abuse and the Healing Process to learn more about sexual abuse and its impact; or click here to go to Childhelp.org to learn more about sexual abuse (and other types of abuse) and its impact.
Below are physical and behavioral indicators of a victim of a sexual abuse/assault.
Please realize these are only indicators and are not necessarily evidence of abuse.
- Difficulty in walking, sitting, coordination
- Genital or anal injury (swollen, bleeding)
- Urinating or defecating in clothing (inability to control)
- Venereal disease
- Genital pain and itching
- Change in neatness of appearance
- Gaining weight (wearing loose fitting clothes so as not to draw attention to the body)
- Compulsive masturbation
- Loss of appetite or sudden increase in appetite (and other more serious eating disorders such as anorexia)
- Altered sleep patterns (bedwetting, restlessness, nightmares, fear of sleeping alone, needing a night light, being tired all the time)
- Newly acquired bodily complaints, especially stomach aches
- Odor (is not taking care of personal hygiene)
- Extreme shifts of emotions/moods
- Fears and phobias especially aimed at one person or location
- Suddenly turning against someone, such as a parent
- Acting adult-like, inconsistent with age
- Acting child-like, regression
- Frequent absences from school
- Daydreaming, having learning problems
- Irritability, short tempered
- Asking questions or having knowledge of terminology inappropriate for age
- Expresses affection to adults in inappropriate ways
- Not willing to undress for PE at school
- Hostility and aggressiveness towards adults or overly trying to please adults
- Afraid to be alone with adults
- Isolation, withdrawal
- Few friends
- Shying away from being touched
- Having low self esteem and self image
- Excessive curiosity about sexual matters
- Precocious sexual play
- Verbal descriptions of sexual matters