Child Abuse and Neglect: Everything You Need to Know

Child abuse refers to neglect of responsibility for a child that leads to the child getting hurt or being at risk of harm. This can include emotional, physical, sexual, and psychological acts of abuse. Neglect is another common act of abuse that involves a parent or caretaker’s refusal to acknowledge their responsibilities towards a child.

Physical abuse refers to a non-accidental physical injury to a child. It can include beating, punching, shaking, stabbing, kicking, biting, choking, throwing, burning, hitting (with a stick, hand, strap, or any other object), or otherwise causing physical harm. However, physical discipline (paddling or spanking) isn’t considered abuse as long as it’s reasonable and doesn’t cause any bodily injury to the child. Injuries caused by physical abuse could range from slight bruises to severe fractures or even death.

Sexual abuse includes acts like indecent exposure, penetration, fondling a child’s genitals, rape, incest, exploitation through the production of pornographic materials, sodomy, or prostitution. CAPTA defines sexual abuse as the use, employment, inducement, coercion, persuasion, or enticement of any child to participate in, or help any other individual to engage in, any sexually explicit behavior or simulation of such behavior to produce a visual portrayal of such behavior; or the rape, and in cases of interfamilial or caretaker relationships, statutory rape, prostitution, incest, molestation, or other forms of sexual exploitation of children.

Emotional abuse is often tricky to prove and damages a child’s sense of self-worth or emotional development. It may include constant threats, criticism, rejection, or withholding support, love, or guidance.

Psychological abuse, sometimes called emotional or verbal abuse, involves triggering the intentional infliction of fear and mental anguish by a parent’s or caregiver’s attempt to control, frighten, threaten, or isolate the child.

Neglect stands for the failure of a parent or other caregiver to meet the child’s basic needs. It could be physical (lack of appropriate shelter or food), medical (withholding medical treatment from a child with life-threatening conditions or not providing adequate medical or mental health treatment), emotional (letting a child consume alcohol or take drugs, or failure to provide psychological care), or educational neglect (inability to educate a child or failure to meet special educational requirements).

Child abuse has terrible consequences on the life of a child both in and out of academics. Within the classroom, abused students may zone out frequently and get distracted by their thoughts. Signs such as throwing tantrums and physical evidence of abuse such as sudden weight loss, bruises, etc., should not be ignored.

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