Types of Abuse

Types of Abuse
Physical child abuse: Warning signs and how to help

Many physically abusive parents and caregivers insist that their actions are simply forms of discipline, ways to make children learn to behave. But there’s a big difference between giving an unmanageable child a swat on the backside and twisting the child’s arm until it breaks. Physical abuse can include striking a child with the hand, fist, or foot or with an object, burning, shaking, pushing, or throwing a child; pinching or biting the child, pulling a child by the hair or cutting off a child’s air. Another form of child abuse involving babies is shaken baby syndrome, in which a frustrated caregiver shakes a baby roughly to make the baby stop crying, causing brain damage that often leads to severe neurological problems and even death.
Warning signs of physical abuse

Physical signs.
Sometimes physical abuse has clear warning signs, such as unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts. While all children will take a tumble now and then, look for age-inappropriate injuries, injuries that appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt, or a pattern of severe injuries.

Behavioral signs.
Other times, signs of physical abuse may be more subtle. The child may be fearful, shy away from touch or appear to be afraid to go home. A child’s clothing may be inappropriate for the weather, such as heavy, long sleeved pants and shirts on hot days.

Caregiver signs.
Physically abusive caregivers may display anger management issues and excessive need for control. Their explanation of the injury might not ring true, or may be different from an older child’s description of the injury.
Is physical punishment the same as physical abuse?

Physical punishment, the use of physical force with the intent of inflicting bodily pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control, used to be a very common form of discipline. Most of us know it as spanking or paddling. Many of us may feel we were spanked as children without damage to body or psyche. The widespread use of physical punishment, however, doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. The level of force used by an angry or frustrated parent can easily get out of hand and lead to injury. Even if it doesn’t, what a child learns from being hit as punishment is less about why conduct is right or wrong than about behaving well — or hiding bad behavior — out of fear of being hit.
Emotional child abuse

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. This old saying could not be farther from the truth. Emotional child abuse may seem invisible. However, because emotional child abuse involves behavior that interferes with a child’s mental health or social development, the effects can be extremely damaging and may even leave deeper lifelong psychological scars than physical abuse.
Emotional child abuse takes many forms, in words and in actions.

Words. Examples of how words can hurt include constant belittling, shaming, and humiliating a child, calling names and making negative comparisons to others, or constantly telling a child he or she is “no good," "worthless," "bad," or "a mistake." How the words are spoken can be terrifying to a child as well, such as yelling, threatening, or bullying.

Actions. Basic food and shelter may be provided, but withholding love and affection can have devastating effects on a child. Examples include ignoring or rejecting a child, giving him or her the silent treatment. Another strong component of emotional abuse is exposing the child to inappropriate situations or behavior. Especially damaging is witnessing acts that cause a feeling of helplessness and horror, such as in domestic violence or watching another sibling or pet be abused.
Signs of emotional child abuse,

Behavioral signs.
Since emotional child abuse does not leave concrete marks, the effects may be harder to detect. Is the child excessively shy, fearful or afraid of doing something wrong? Behavioral extremes may also be a clue. A child may be constantly trying to parent other children for example, or on the opposite side exhibit antisocial behavior such as uncontrolled aggression. Look for inappropriate age behaviors as well, such as an older child exhibiting behaviors more commonly found in younger children.

Caregiver signs.
Does a caregiver seem unusually harsh and critical of a child, belittling and shaming him or her in front of others? Has the caregiver shown anger or issues with control in other areas? A caregiver may also seem strangely unconcerned with a child’s welfare or performance. Keep in mind that there might not be immediate caregiver signs. Tragically, many emotionally abusive caregivers can present a kind outside face to the world, making the abuse of the child all the more confusing and scary.
Sexual child abuse

Sexual abuse,
defined as any sexual act between an adult and a child, has components of both physical and emotional abuse. Sexual abuse can be physical, such as inappropriate fondling, touching and actual sexual penetration. It can also be emotionally abusive, as in cases where a child is forced to undress or exposing a child to adult sexuality. Aside from the physical damage that sexual abuse can cause, the emotional component is powerful and far reaching. The layer of shame that accompanies sexual abuse makes the behavior doubly traumatizing. While news stories of sexual predators are scary, what is even more frightening is that the adult who sexually abuses a child or adolescent is usually someone the child knows and is supposed to trust: a relative, childcare provider, family friend, neighbor, teacher, coach, or clergy member. Children may worry that others won’t believe them and will be angry with them if they tell. They may believe that the abuse is their fault, and the shame is devastating and can cause lifelong effects.
Signs of sexual child abuse

Behavioral signs,. Does the child display knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior? A child might appear to avoid another person, or display unusual behavior- either being very aggressive or very passive. Older children might resort to destructive behaviors to take away the pain, such as alcohol or drug abuse, self-mutilation, or suicide attempts.

Physical signs.
A child may have trouble sitting or standing, or have stained, bloody or torn underclothes. Swelling, bruises, or bleeding in the genital area is a red flag. An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14, is a strong cause of concern.

Caregiver signs.
The caregiver may seem to be unusually controlling and protective of the child, limiting contact with other children and adults. Again, as with other types of abuse, sometimes the caregiver does not give outward signs of concern. This does not mean the child is lying or exaggerating.
Sexual child abuse: The online risk

Children who use the Internet are also vulnerable to Internet predators. Among the warning signs of online sexual child abuse are these:

* Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night, and may turn the computer monitor off or quickly change the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
* You find pornography on your child's computer.
* Your child receives phone calls or mail from people you don't know, or makes calls to numbers that you don’t recognize.
* Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.

Child neglect

Child neglect is the most frequent form of child abuse.
Neglect is a pattern of failing to provide for a child's basic needs, endangering a child’s physical and psychological well-being. Child neglect is not always deliberate. Sometimes, a caregiver becomes physically or mentally unable to care for a child, such as in untreated depression or anxiety. Other times, alcohol or drug abuse may seriously impair judgment and the ability to keep a child safe. The end result, however, is a child who is not getting their physical and/or emotional needs met.
Warning signs of child neglect

Physical signs.
A child may consistently be dressed inappropriately for the weather, or have ill-fitting, dirty clothes and shoes. They might appear to have consistently bad hygiene, like appearing very dirty, matted and unwashed hair, or noticeable body odor. Another warning sign is untreated illnesses and physical injuries.

Behavioral signs.
Does the child seem to be unsupervised? Schoolchildren may be frequently late or tardy. The child might show troublesome, disruptive behavior or be withdrawn and passive.

Caregiver signs.
Does the caregiver have problems with drugs or alcohol? While most of us have a little clutter in the home, is the caregiver’s home filthy and unsanitary? Is there adequate food in the house? A caregiver might also show reckless disregard for the child’s safety, letting older children play unsupervised or leaving a baby unattended. A caregiver might refuse or delay necessary health care for the child.

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