Social Justice Issues

Child Abuse

What is child abuse?

what is child abuse?

-There are different forms of child abuse. These are neglect, sexual, physical and emotional abuse.


-Child neglect is the continued failure by a parent or caregiver to provide a child with the basic things needed for his or her proper growth and development, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical and dental care and adequate supervision.

sexual abuse:

- Sexual abuse is when someone involves a child or young person in a sexual activity by using their power over them or taking advantage of their trust.

- Often children are bribed or threatened physically and psychologically to make them participate in the activity.

- Child sexual abuse is a crime.

physical abuse:

- Physical abuse is a non-accidental injury or pattern of injuries to a child caused by a parent, caregiver or any other person.

- It includes but is not limited to injuries which are caused by excessive discipline, severe beatings or shakings, cigarette burns, attempted strangulation and female genital mutilation.

- Injuries include bruising, lacerations or welts, burns, fractures or dislocation of joints.

- Hitting a child around the head or neck and/or using a stick, belt or other object to discipline or punishing a child (in a non-trivial way) is a crime.

psychological abuse or harm:

- Serious psychological harm can occur where the behaviour of their parent or caregiver damages the confidence and self esteem of the child or young person, resulting in serious emotional deprivation or trauma.

- Although it is possible for ‘one-off’ incidents to cause serious harm, in general it is the frequency, persistence and duration of the parental or carer behaviour that is instrumental in defining the consequences for the child.

-This can include a range of behaviours such as excessive criticism, withholding affection, exposure to domestic violence, intimidation or threatening behaviour.

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possible signs of neglect in children

-low weight for age and/or failure to thrive and develop

-untreated physical problems eg sores, serious nappy rash and urine scalds, significant dental decay

-poor standards of hygiene ie child consistently unwashed

-poor complexion and hair texture

-child not adequately supervised for their age

-scavenging or stealing food and focus on basic survival

-extended stays at school, public places, other homes

-longs for or indiscriminately seeks adult affection

-rocking, sucking, head-banging

-poor school attendance

possible signs of psychological abuse in children

-All types of abuse and neglect harm children psychologically, but the term ‘psychological harm’ or ‘emotional abuse’ applies to behaviour which damages the confidence and self esteem of a child or young person, resulting in serious emotional deprivation or trauma.

-constant feelings of worthlessness about life and themselves

-unable to value others

-lack of trust in people

-lack of people skills necessary for daily functioning

-extreme attention-seeking behaviour

-is obsessively eager to please or obey adults

-takes extreme risks, is markedly disruptive, bullying or aggressive

-is highly self critical, depressed or anxious

-suicide threats or attempts

-persistent running away from home.

possible signs of physical abuse in children

-bruising to face, head or neck, other bruising and marks which may show the shape of the object that caused it eg belt buckle, hand print

-lacerations and welts

-drowsiness, vomiting, fits or pooling of blood in the eyes, which may suggest head injury

-adult bite marks and scratches

-fractures of bones, especially in children under three years old

-dislocations, sprains, twisting

-burns and scalds (including cigarette burns)

-multiple injuries or bruises

-explanation of injury offered by the child is not consistent with the injury

-abdominal pain caused by ruptured internal organs, without a history of major trauma

-swallowing of poisonous substances, alcohol or other harmful drugs

-general indicators of female genital mutilation eg having a 'special operation'

possible signs of sexual abuse in children

-bruising or bleeding in the genital area

-sexually transmitted diseases

-bruising to breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen or thighs

-child or child’s friend telling you about it, directly or indirectly

describing sexual acts

-sexual knowledge or behaviour inappropriate for the child’s age

-going to bed fully clothed

-regressive behaviour eg sudden return to bed-wetting or soiling

-self-destructive behaviour eg drug dependency, suicide attempts, self-mutilation

-child being in contact with a known or suspected pedophile

-anorexia or over-eating

-adolescent pregnancy

-unexplained accumulation of money and gifts

-persistent running away from home

-risk taking behaviours - self harm, suicide attempts