What is Child Abuse

Child abuse is a scourge that lives and breathes within all corners of our communities. It occurs across all socioeconomic classes, cultures, to males and females, and from the time of conception to a child turns 18. Quite simply put, child abuse is everywhere. It does not discriminate and, as frightening as it may be, is a lurking shadow that is ever present on the landscape of childhood.

Child abuse can be defined as any act, or failure to act, by a parent, caregiver, or other person of authority that has the potential to result in emotional or physical harm to a child.

Emotional/Psychological abuse

When an individual, such as a parent or caregiver, fails to provide a child with adequate emotional nurturing, warmth and affection. This may include ignoring, isolating or rejecting a child. Emotional abuse may also involve intentional verbal attack; bullying, frightening and/or making a child believe they are worthless and unlovable.

  • Verbal abuse and name calling
  • Being told you are worthless, useless, no good – over and over
  • Being isolated for extended periods of time
  • Being afforded no affection and being rejected
  • Witness to Domestic and Family Violence

Physical abuse

Occurs when a child suffers or is likely to suffer significant harm from an injury inflicted by a child’s parent or caregiver. The injury may be inflicted intentionally or may be the inadvertent consequence of physical punishment or aggression toward a child. This may involve, though is not limited to, beating, burning, biting, strangulation, shaking, poisoning and suffocation.

  • Beating
  • Burning
  • Biting
  • Strangulation
  • Shaking
  • Poisioning
  • Suffocation


Occurs when a parent or caregiver fails to provide a child with the basic necessities of life. This may involve a failure to provide a child access to adequate food, shelter, clothing, education, medical intervention, supervision and protection. Unlike other forms of child abuse, neglect is an act of omission rather than a deliberate act toward a child.

Sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse is any sexual act with a child performed by an adult or an older child. Child sexual abuse could include a number of acts, including but not limited to:

  • When an adult, adolescent or older child uses power or authority to engage a child in sexual activity, or to expose a child to sexual activity or materials (e.g. pornographic material).
  • Sexual abuse may involve coercion or threats toward the child. An individual may manipulate a child over time into thinking the abuse are acts of love and affection.
  • Sexual abuse refers to a wide range of non-contact and contact behaviours, including fondling, masturbation, exposure or involvement in pornography, voyeurism, exhibitionism, vaginal, anal and oral penetration, and organised child prostitution.

Domestic Abuse & Family Violence

Entails a pattern of abusive behaviours that exist within a family system that involve one person using power or authority to create fear. Children may become ‘caught up’ within these behaviours or simply witness these.

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