Child abuse is a physical, sexual or emotional maltreatment or neglect of a child or children.
Child abuse crosses all racial, economic and cultural lines and can happen to males or females. Whilst abuse by strangers does happen, most abusers are family members or those close to the family.
The earlier the abused child gets help, the greater the chance they have to heal and break the cycle.
Neglect and emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical and sexual abuse, but are more subtle making it less likely for others to intervene.
The effects of child abuse and neglect can cause lack of trust and relationship difficulties. They may have difficulties maintaining relationships in later life, due to fear of being controlled or abused. Being abused as a child can lead to unhealthy relationships as an adult, as they do not know what a healthy relationship is. Abused children can have core feelings or being worthless or damaged. When you are told over and over again your “stupid” or “no good”, it is very difficult to over come these core feelings, for example they may not further education, getting a low paid job because they don’t think they are worth it.
Child abuse can cause trouble when regulating emotions, as abused children may not be able to express emotions safely. This can lead to unexplained anxiety, depression and anger. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb feelings.
Types of abuse
Emotional Abuse can include: –
Constant belittling, shaming or humiliating a child
Name calling, making negative comparisons to others
Tell the child they are “no good”, “worthless”, “bad” or a “mistake”
Frequently yelling, threatening or bullying
Ignoring or rejecting as punishment
Limited physical contact- kisses, hugs etc.
Exposing the child to violence or abuse to others- parent, siblings or even pets
Emotional Abuse warning signs –
Withdrawn, fearful, anxious about doing something wrong
Extremes in behaviours
No attachment to the parent or caregiver
Acts inappropriately – adult like or child like
Physical harm is any harm or injury to the child. This can include a deliberate attempt to hurt the child, but is not always the case. The injury/harm could be from severe discipline – a punishment that is inappropriate for the child’s age or physical condition.
Many abusers insist that their actions are simply forms of discipline.
Disciplining children is to teach them right from wrong- not to make them live in fear.
Physical Abuse warning signs-
Frequent injuries/unexplained bruises etc.
Always seem on alert – like something bad will happen
Injuries have a pattern – hand or belt marks
Shies away from touch, flinches, afraid to go home
Wears clothes to cover the injuries
Neglecting a child is a pattern of failing to provide a child’s basic needs, whether that is food, clothing, hygiene or supervision. Neglect is not always easy to spot. It maybe down to the parent being unable physically or mentally to look after the child.
Neglected children are not getting their physical and emotional needs met.
Neglect warning signs-
Clothing- ill fitting, filthy
Hygiene- unbathed, unwashed hair, body odor
Frequently left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations
Frequently late or missing from school
Sexual abuse is very complicated due to the many layers of guilt and shame.
Sexual abuse does not always involve body contact. Exposing a child to sexual situations or material is sexually abusive whether or not touching is involved.
Both boys and girls can suffer sexual abuse.
Sexual Abuse warning signs-
Trouble walking or sitting
Displays knowledge/understanding of inappropriate sexual acts for their age or even seductive behaviours
Makes strong efforts to avoid a certain person
Doesn’t want to change in front of others
STD’s, Pregnancy- especially in the under 14
Frequently runs away from home
The National Domestic Violence 24 Hour Helpline 0808 2000 247