What Is Child Abuse?
The signs of emotional/physical/sexual and neglect abuse aren’t always so clear.
What makes abuse even harder to stop is that most of the time, the abuser is someone the child knows.
The child may be reluctant to say something because she may want to protect that person or is afraid of what they will do if she speaks up.
It’s important to know how to recognize different types of abuse, and what you can do if you suspect it.
Child abuse happens when someone harms a child’s body or emotional health, development, and well-being. There are 4 main types.
Physical abuse means that someone hurts a child’s body or puts her in physical danger. It doesn’t matter if the child gets seriously hurt or if it leaves a mark. Any harm is abuse. It includes when someone:
- Burns a child.
- Hits, kicks, or bites
- Holds the child underwater
- Shakes or throws the child
- Throws objects at the child
- Ties up the child
Sexual abuse is any kind of sexual activity with a child, not just physical contact. It includes when someone:
- Forces a child to take part in pornographic pictures or videos.
- Has any sexual contact with the child, from kissing in a sexual way to having sex.
- Makes phone calls or sends emails, texts, or other messages that are sexual in any way.
- Shows the child someone else’s genitals, as with “flashing”.
- Shows pornography.
- Tells “dirty” jokes or stories.
Emotional abuse is a pattern of behaviours that harm a child’s emotional well-being and development. This can mean when someone:
- Abuses others when the child is around, such as a parent, brother, sister, or pet
- Fails to show love and affection
- Ignores the child and doesn’t give emotional support and guidance
- Shames, belittles, criticizes, or embarrasses
- Teases, threatens, bullies, or yells
Neglect is when a caregiver doesn’t give the child basic care and protection, such as:
- Heat in cold weather
- Housing with clean living conditions
- Medical care
Neglect is also when someone leaves the child alone for long stretches of time or under dangerous conditions.
The Signs of Abuse
Signs of Physical Abuse
commonly on the head but also on the ear or neck or soft areas – the abdomen, back and buttocks
- defensive wounds commonly on the forearm, upper arm, back of the leg, hands or feet
- clusters of bruises on the upper arm, outside of the thigh or on the body
- bruises with dots of blood under the skin
- a bruised scalp and swollen eyes from hair being pulled violently
- bruises in the shape of a hand or object.
Burns and Scalds
- can be from hot liquids, hot objects, flames, chemicals or electricity
- on the hands, back, shoulders or buttocks; scalds may be on lower limbs, both arms and/or both legs
- a clear edge to the burn or scald
- sometimes in the shape or an implement for example, a circular cigarette burns
- multiple burns or scalds.
- usually oval or circular in shape
- visible wounds, indentations or bruising from individual teeth.
- fractures to the ribs or the leg bones in babies
- multiple fractures or breaks at different stages of healing
- effects of poisoning such as vomiting, drowsiness or seizures
- respiratory problems from drowning, suffocation or poisoning
Signs of Sexual Abuse May Include;
- Avoiding a certain person for no clear reason
- Bloody, torn, or stained underwear
- Bruising or bleeding around the genitals
- Pain and itching around the genitals that might cause problems walking or sitting
- Pregnancy or STDs, especially for boys and girls under 14 years old
- Refusing to change clothes in front of others
- Running away from home
- Sexual activity or knowledge that people usually have only when they’re older
Signs of Emotional Abuse May Include;
- Constant worry about doing something wrong
- Speech problems or delays in learning and emotional development
- Depression and low self-esteem
- Doing poorly in school
- Extreme behaviour, such as being way too obedient or way too demanding
- Headaches and stomach-aches with no clear cause
- The child doesn’t seem close to a parent or caregiver
- Showing little interest in friends and activities
Signs of neglect May Include;
- Always looking dirty
- Being left alone or in the care of other young children
- Eating more than usual at a meal or saving food for later
- Doesn’t get medical, dental, or mental health care
- Missing a lot of school
- Poor weight gain and growth
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