Child abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of a child which results in non-accidental or unreasonable harm. There are many forms of child abuse including:
Physical Abuse: Behaviors which physically harm a child such as hitting, burning, pinching, or biting.
Sexual Abuse: Any forced, exploitative or coercive sexual contact with a child. This can include rape, molestation, pornography, or forced prostitution.
Emotional Abuse: Behaviors which impair a child’s sense of worth and emotional development. These behaviors can include language directed at the child such as profanity, belittling, or threats.
Neglect: Failure to provide shelter, nutrition, clothing, or medical attention to a child. Neglect is different from poverty.
Child abuse crosses all racial, religious, cultural, educational, and economic lines. While child abuse can be committed by strangers, the majority of abuse is committed by someone the victim knows and trusts.
“What are signs to look for in a child who may be experiencing abuse?”
A change in a child’s behavior, as well as physical marks on a child’s body can alert adults to possible abuse. Other signs may be lying, anxiety, bed wetting, depression, nightmares, academic failure, self inflicted injuries, being sexually mature for their age, hyperactivity, assaulting other children, being overly affectionate, etc.
“Who should I tell if I suspect a child is being abused?”
Responding to child abuse is never easy. A child may not be able to fully explain what is happening or may be reluctant to disclose abuse for fear of not being believed or of being blamed.
It is important to remain calm and listen to the child’s story. Let the child know that you believe and support them. Call your local Child Protective Services Unit at the Department of Social Services to report the incident.
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