What Is Child Abuse?

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of a child which results in non-accidental or unreasonable harm. Child abuse crosses all racial, religious, cultural, educational, and economic lines.

The majority of child abuse is committed by someone the child knows and trusts, although abuse can also be committed by strangers.

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 may include rape, molestation, pornography or pornographic images, or forced prostitution.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse refers to behaviors which impair a child’s sense of worth and emotional development. Such behaviors can include language directed at the child such as profanity, belittling, or threats.


Neglect of a child is failure to provide a child with shelter, nutrition, clothing, or medical attention. Neglect is different from poverty.

What are signs that a child 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.

What do I do if I suspect a child is being abused?

Responding to child abuse is not 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. Remain calm and listen to the child’s story. Let the child know that you believe and support them.

Call the child abuse hotline 1(800) 552-7096.

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