Emotional and Physical Abuse and Neglect

What emotional and physical abuse and neglect are, and how to get help

Emotional abuse

“You are so stupid!  I wish you had never been born!  Can’t you do anything right?” This is emotional abuse. In 2008, more than 36,000 children were emotionally abused and exposed to family violence in Canada (Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect – 2008).

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse happens when adults constantly criticize, threaten, or dismiss kids or teens until their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth are damaged. It often goes unrecognized because the scars are not visible—they are on the inside. But the impact of emotional abuse is just as serious as the impact of physical or sexual abuse.

Kinds of emotional abuse include rejecting, degrading, isolating, ignoring, terrorizing, corrupting, exploiting, and being exposed to violence between other family members.

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Physical abuse and neglect

Physical abuse happens when a person in a position of trust or authority purposefully injures or threatens to injure a child or youth. It can happen just once, or may occur repeatedly over time. This includes hitting, throwing, grabbing, pulling, pinching choking, or burning.

Neglect is when parents or caregivers do not provide the basic necessities for a child or youth to grow into a healthy adult.

To not have your basic needs met is neglect

The basic necessities that children and youth need in order to live are:

  • Medical and dental care
  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Rest
  • Hygiene (care for skin, hair and teeth)
  • Exercise and fresh air
  • Supervision
  • Discipline
  • Moral guidance
  • A safe environment

Neglect can be on purpose or accidental

Sometimes adults can neglect children on purpose and deny them the things they need in life. Other times neglectful behaviour is not done on purpose and happens because the family does not have money to buy food or medicine due to poverty.

How do emotional and physical abuse and neglect affect people?

In addition to the physical effects of abuse and neglect, emotional and physical abuse and neglect can take away children’s or youths’ self-esteem, and make it hard for them to trust other people or have positive relationships.

Getting help for emotional abuse, physical abuse or neglect

It is important to remember that the person suffering from emotional abuse, physical abuse or neglect is never to blame—It is not their fault!

If you know someone who is experiencing any of these types of abuse or neglect, it is important to find help for him or her. You can go with him or her to talk to an adult that they trust, or talk with an adult that you trust.

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