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.

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.

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.

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