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What Is Abuse?

Screaming STOP THE ABUSE Found on the netSandra On September - 29 - 2009


Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of childmaltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse.

It’s easy to identify some forms of child abuse, but difficult for other forms. The fact that a child experienced harm doesn’t necessarily reveal abuse. CHILDREN ARE ABUSED BY BOTH MEN & WOMEN.

Child abuse, from the standpoint of the victim, is anything that harms you!!

Since there are many forms of abuse and neglect, many governments have developed their own legal definition of what constitutes child maltreatment for the purposes of removing a child and/or prosecuting a criminal charge. In the United States, the Federal Government puts out a full definition of child abuse and neglect and creates a summary of each State definition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines child maltreatment as any act or series of acts or commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. Examples of acts of commission include physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. Examples of acts of omission include failure to provide (physical, emotional, medical/dental, or educational neglect) or failure to supervise (inadequate supervision, or exposure to violent environments.)

Types of child abuse


The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect defines child physical abuse as:  “The physical injury or maltreatment of a child under the age of eighteen by a person who is responsible for the child’s welfare under circumstances which indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or threatened thereby…”
Any non-accidental injury to a child. This includes hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, pinching, hair pulling, biting, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping, and paddling.


Any sexual act between an adult and child. This includes fondling, penetration, intercourse, exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, child prostitution, group sex, oral sex, or forced observation of sexual acts. The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct.  The rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.

Any attitude or behavior which interferes with a child’s mental health or social development. This includes yelling, screaming, name-calling, shaming, negative comparisons to others, telling them they are “bad, no good, worthless” or “a mistake”. lack of supervision, inappropriate housing or shelter, inadequate provision of food, inappropriate clothing for season or weather, abandonment, denial of medical care, and inadequate hygiene.

It also includes the failure to provide the affection and support necessary for the development of a child’s emotional, social, physical and intellectual well-being. This includes ignoring, lack of appropriate physical affection (hugs), not saying “I love you”, withdrawal of attention, lack of praise, and lack of positive reinforcement.


Child neglect is the failure to provide for the child’s basic needs.
Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional.
Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, expulsion from the home or refusal to allow a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision.  Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.  Emotional neglect includes such actions as marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spouse abuse in the child’s presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

1. Unexplained burns, cuts, bruises, or welts
2. Bite marks
3. Anti-social behavior
4. Problems in school
5. Fear of adults

1. Apathy
2. Depression
3. Hostility or stress
4. Lack of concentration
5. Eating disorders

1. Inappropriate interest or knowledge of sexual acts
2. Nightmares and bed wetting
3. Drastic changes in appetite
4. Over-compliance or excessive aggression
5. Fear of a particular person or family member

1. Unsuitable clothing for weather
2. Dirty or unbathed
3. Extreme hunger
4. Apparent lack of supervision

For a more extensive list of the signs of child abuse,
call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline


You Should Know:

No one has the right to abuse you!

  • You don’t deserve to be abused.
  • If you are being abused, you are a victim.
  • It’s not your fault that you are being treated this way.
  • It is wrong that you are suffering this pain, fear or sadness.
  • You are not alone. Other kids suffer abuse, too.
  • Sometimes abusers scare or threaten kids so they won’t tell.
  • There are people who care about you and want to help you.
  • If you are being abused, please tell a safe person – that’s someone you can trust like a teacher, counselor, school nurse, neighbor or parent.
What is Child Abuse and Neglect?
Series Title: Factsheets
Author(s): Child Welfare Information Gateway
Availability: View
Download (PDF – 228KB)
Year Published: 2008 – 4 pages
This fact sheet explains how child maltreatment is defined in federal and state laws. Distinctions between the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and state civil and criminal statutes are highlighted. Operational definitions of physical abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse also are included.




Published on May 15, 1997

Written by: Patrick Fagan, Ph.D.

Far too many children are badly abused in the United States today. This disturbing fact–driven home by shocking stories on nightly television broadcasts – appears also in professional literature as analysts try to understand the causes of this problem and find a remedy for it. The growing empirical evidence on child abuse reveals new, alarming, and distinct patterns of familial relationships that contribute greatly to this tragedy. The studies show that, along with a continual rise in the incidence of child abuse in the United States, there has been an increase in the number of children born out of wedlock and abandoned by their fathers, as well as an increase in the number of children affected by divorce. Now, in addition to poverty and community environment, the rising incidence of child abuse in the United States can be linked to one more factor: whether an abused child’s parents are married.

The underlying dynamic of child abuse, the breakdown of marriage and the commitment to love is spreading like a cancer from poor communities to working-class communities. As social scientists, community leaders, and legislators consider ways to stop the spread of this cancer, they must focus their attention on the most upsetting byproduct of the disintegration of family and community: the abuse, maiming, and even death of America’s infants and young children, about 2,000 of whom–6 per day–die each year.

The Alarming Rise in Child Abuse

The best available estimates of child abuse in the United States are found in studies conducted by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These National Incidence Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect, conducted in 1980 (NIS-1), 1986 (NIS-2), and 1993 (NIS-3) focused on reported and recognized cases of abuse (although they did not measure the actual incidence of abuse). According to NIS-3, child abuse and neglect increased by 67 percent between 1986 and 1993 (an average of almost 10 percent per year) and 149 percent between 1980 and 1993. Some of the biggest increases in recent times were reported in physical abuse (102 percent, or almost 15 percent per year) and sexual abuse (83 percent, or almost 12 percent per year).

Abuse and Neglect of American Children Has Increased 134% Since 1980

Obtaining trustworthy estimates of the degree of abuse and neglect in the United States–situations that perpetrators try to keep hidden for as long as possible – is difficult. Scholars utilize various methods to generate estimates of abuse, and their estimates are not always similar. Consequently, serious disagreements about the true level of abuse exist.

All Types of Child Abuse Have Increased Since 1980

The effects of abuse are more readily observable: broken bones and bruises, scars from cigarette burns, swollen faces, and drastic changes in behavior. School teachers and doctors are often in a position to see these signs of abuse; but few see the signs of neglect in the passive child who is rarely talked to at home, or who may be locked up and left unfed, unclothed, and unwashed for long periods, or who must fend for himself. Changes in the neglected child’s body and behavior are slower and more easily mistaken for ill health or shy personality.



About the Author:  Patrick Fagan, Ph.D.

1 Response

  1. National Child Abuse Month Giveaway | Mommy PR Says:

    […] What Is Child Abuse […]

    Posted on April 1st, 2010 at 5:56 am

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DREAMCATCHERS FOR ABUSED CHILDREN, INC. is an official non-profit 501(c)3 child abuse & neglect organization. Our mission is to educate the public on all aspects of child abuse such as symptoms, intervention, prevention, statistics, reporting, and helping victims locate the proper resources necessary to achieve a full recovery. We also cover areas such as bullying, teen suicide & prevention, children\'s rights, child trafficking, missing & exploited children, online safety, and pedophiles/sex offenders.

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