Child Abuse

Understanding and preventing child abuse and neglect

The foundation of an individual’s life is established during childhood, especially from the time a person is born until the age of six. Emotional, physical and sexual abuse during this time can impact a person throughout their lifetime.

What is child abuse?

Child abuse is any form of physical, emotional and/or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that causes injury or emotional damage to a child. Child abuse happens to both girls and boys. The misuse of power and/or a breach of trust are part of all types of child abuse.

Types of child abuse

Emotional abuse is a chronic attack on a child’s self-esteem by a person in a position of trust or authority. Rejecting, degrading, isolating, terrorizing, corrupting, ignoring, and exploiting are all forms of emotional abuse.

Exposure to family violence is when children or youth witness violence being done by one family member to another. Every time a young person sees or hears violence in their family they are being emotionally hurt. They often live in fear of their parents’ reactions, have to be on their guard and watching out for their siblings.

Physical abuse is when a person in a position of trust or authority purposefully injures or threatens to injure a child or youth.

Neglect is the chronic inattention to the basic necessities in life such as clothing, shelter, healthy diet, education, good hygiene, supervision, medical and dental care, adequate rest, a safe environment, moral guidance and discipline, exercise and fresh air.

Sexual Abuse is when a younger or less powerful person is used by an older or more powerful child, youth or adult for sexual gratification.  There are two categories: contact or non-contact.


  • Touched in sexual areas
  • Forced to touch another’s sexual areas
  • Held in a sexual manner
  • Anally or vaginally penetrated


  • Shown sexual videos
  • Being flashed/exposed to sexual body parts, in person or through technology
  • Forced to listen to sexual talk
  • Forced to pose for seductive photos
  • Forced to look at sexual body parts of another person
  • Forced to watch sexual acts

The most common perpetrator of sexual abuse is someone the child knows and trusts.

Get help for children whom you know—or suspect—are being abused

All adults are responsible to help children and youth who have been or are being abused. Read how you can help a child or youth who is being or who may be being abused.