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What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse and neglect are ongoing patterns of maltreatment that have a harmful effect on the well-being of a child. Child maltreatment includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and neglect. The effects of child maltreatment on children can be significant. Research shows that child maltreatment can cause problems such as neurological damage, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, school adjustment problems, and poor academic performance.

PHYSICAL ABUSE: Physical abuse is the non-accidental, physical injury or cruelty to a child. It includes the use of physical means to vent an adult’s anger with no intent to appropriately discipline, and physical discipline out of proportion to the offense. Often, physical abuse results in a mark, such a bruise or laceration, on the child’s body. Severe beatings, slapping, punching, biting, kicking, use of objects for striking, burning, shaking and strangulating are forms of physical abuse.

VERBAL ABUSE: Verbal abuse is the use of insulting, coarse or obscene language constantly used to humiliate a child and undermine his/her self-esteem. 

EMOTIONAL ABUSE: All forms of abuse are ultimately emotionally damaging, but it is possible to be an emotional abuser without engaging in other forms of abuse. Emotional abuse includes chronic acts or omissions, which interfere with a child’s psychological and social growth and development. Continuous criticizing, shaming, name-calling, blaming, making excessive demands, threatening severe punishment are all examples of emotional abuse. Additionally, exposure to family/domestic violence is also considered child abuse, and falls under emotional abuse.

SEXUAL ABUSE: Sexual abuse is when an adult or an older child forces sexual contact on a child under age 18. It includes touching, fondling, and penetration. Sexual abusers may use bribes, threats, physical force, or take advantage of a child’s lack of knowledge. Sexual abuse includes: using children in the making of pornographic materials; forced exposure to sexual activity; passively allowing a child to be exploited or used sexually; actively engaging children in sexual activities ranging from exhibitionism, to fondling, to intercourse. 

CHILD NEGLECT: Child neglect is the failure to meet the requirements basic to a child’s physical development, the failure to provide necessary support and affection for a child’s psychological and social development, the failure to provide appropriate supervision, and the failure to ensure that a child has an opportunity to learn in a school or home environment.

Find out how to report child abuse in your area here.