What is Child Abuse

What Is Child Abuse?


Abusing a child is a serious crime and since the victims of child abuse are too young to defend themselves physically or by word of mouth, WE AS ADULTS must share the responsibility for their protection. If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, report it IMMEDIATELY to the Police.

Q. What Is A Child?
A. For legal purposes, a child is usually regarded as a person under seventeen years of age.
   
Q. What Do We Mean by CHILD MOLESTING and CHILD ABUSE?
A. An adult who deliberately annoys, bothers causes trouble or who touches a child without his or her consent is said to be molesting that child. An adult who intentionally causes injury or who causes a series of injuries or who is neglectful, sexually molests and/or emotionally abuses a child is said to be guilty of child abuse.
TOPICS:    
The Abusers - Who Are They?  
Why Do Adults Abuse Children?
Forms of Abuse
Some Facts You Should Know
Important Telephone Numbers
 



The Abusers - Who Are They?

Abusers essentially fall into four categories; (a) parents, (b) guardians, (c) people looking after children, and (d) family friends/relatives or persons with whom the child is familiar. The majority of abusers were themselves abused as children.


Why Do Adults Abuse Children?

People abuse children for many different reasons and under different situations. Some adults become abusive when angry, under stress or in ill health. Others are abusive when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, when they are frustrated, out of work, living on the 'breadline' or having marital difficulties. Children become an obvious target for such people.


Forms of Abuse

Basically they also fall into four categories; (a) physical, (b) neglect, (c) emotional/verbal, and (d) sexual.

Let's examine these categories of abuse in more detail;

(a) PHYSICAL ABUSE
  (1) Characteristics:
    Consists of any form of non-accidental injury or harm inflicted on a child by his or her caretaker. This may include violent assault with a knife, belt, tree branch or lighted cigarette resulting in bruises, fractures or burns.
  (2) The Child's Appearance
    Look for unusual bruises, welts, burns, fractures and bite marks. Child abusers almost always attribute such injuries to accidents.
  (3) The Child's Behaviour
    He or she may appear frightened of the abuser or show little emotion. the child may seek adult attention or avoid physical contact altogether. He or she may become awkward to deal with, frequently break or damage things and develop irregular school habits (such as arriving early or late, skipping school or hanging around after class).
  (4) The Abuser's Behaviour
    He or she may be unconcerned about the child or be excessively strict. The abuser may misuse drugs or alcohol and view the child in a negative manner. Attempts may be made by the abuser to conceal the child's injuries or to explain them away.
     
(b) CHILD NEGLECT
  (1) Characteristics
   

Can be either physical neglect or educational neglect. For example; physical neglect - abuser may abandon the child, disregard health hazards in the home, refuse to treat or allow the child to be treated when ill, fail to properly feed, clothe or supervise the child.
Educational neglect - abuser knowingly allows the child to frequently skip school, often keeps the child home from school without good cause or fails to enroll the child in school.

  (2) The Child's Appearance
    The child may often appear unclean and wear dirty clothing which may not be appropriate for the season. He or she may be frequently alone for long periods, in need of medical attention or arrive at school without lunch or the means with which to buy it.
  (3) The Child's Behaviour
    He or she may appear tired or lethargic, skip school often, fail to complete his or her homework and become anti-social. This may lead the child to beg or steal for food and money and to turn to alcohol and drugs.
  (4) The Abuser's Behaviour
    The abuser may appear unstable, disorganized and distanced from friends, relatives and neighbours. He or she was probably abused as a child and may well have turned to alcohol and/or drugs for comfort.
     
(c) EMOTIONAL/VERBAL ABUSE
  (1) Characteristics
    Can include inadequately nurturing a child, making frequent or unreasonable demands of performance and competence (in relation to the child's age), excessively criticizing, ignoring or passively rejecting a child. Threatening, constant yelling and berating are also types of emotional abuse.
  (2) The Child's Appearance
    As there are no visible signs or physical changes with this form of abuse it is more difficult to detect. Look for behaviour which is unbecoming or out of character.
  (3) The Child's Behaviour
    The child may show any number of the following symptoms; anxiety, excessive fear, be hyperactive or prone to nightmares. alternatively he or she may be aggressive, anti-social, distrustful and disorganized. The opposite can also occur with the child being passive, rigidly compulsive and taking on adult roles and responsibilities. Finally, he or she may appear apathetic, depressed, become self-destructive, have low esteem and/or allow their school work to suffer.
  (4) The Abuser's Behaviour
    This person is likely to become defensive and blame the child for every problem. The abuser will probably be cold towards the child, withholding love, belittling the child and treating children differently within the same family. Again, alcohol and drugs may be part of the problem.
     
(d) SEXUAL ABUSE
  (1) Characteristics
    Includes sexual molestation, incest and using children as prostitutes or in the production of pornographic materials.
  (2) The Child's Appearance
    He or she may experience pain or irritation in the genital area and show signs of bruising or disease. The child may be withdrawn, defensive or frightened and have torn or blood stained under-clothing.
  (3) The Child's Behaviour
    Such children may have poor relationships with other children and may appear withdrawn and unwilling to participate in physical activities. They may or may not admit to being sexually abused.
  (4) The Abuser's Behaviour
    Will likely be very protective and jealous of the child and might encourage the child to engage in prostitution or sexual acts. If the abuser is a member of the household, he or she may often be away from the home and will probably misuse alcohol or drugs.


Some Facts You Should Know

95% of all cases of child abuse are ignored or not reported.
Almost all reported cases of abuse CAN be corrected with counselling.
Punishing the abuser or taking away the child will not necessarily solve the problem - the abuser needs professional help and it is important that we all realize this.
A high percentage of prison inmates were formally abused or neglected children.
Abused children often grow up to become abusive parents.
The vast majority of abusive adults (80%) are considered 'normal people' (meaning that they do not have a mental problem).
Abused children frequently live in environments where drugs and alcohol are misused.

For the sake of ALL CHILDREN report every know or suspected case of child molesting or abuse IMMEDIATELY.


Important Telephone Numbers

Police (Emergency)
911
Fire (Emergency)
911
Ambulance (Emergency)
911
Hospital
236-2345
Family Services
236-0224
Physical Abuse Centre
297-8278
Child Development Project
295-0746
Police Code-A-Phone
295-1140
Police Crime & Drug Prevention Unit
299-4286
Hamilton Police Station
295-0011
Somerset Police Station
234-1010
St. George's Police Station
297-1122