What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is defined by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) as any recent act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation.

What is Physical Abuse?
Physical abuse is defined as any non-accidental physical injury or pattern of injuries inflicted or caused by an adult, parent, guardian, or any other person. Physical abuse can include striking, kicking, burning, or biting the child, or any action that results in a physical impairment of the child. Indicators of physical abuse include, but are not limited to, bruises and welts, fractures, burns and scalds, abdominal injuries, head or brain injuries, lacerations and abrasions, bite marks, multiple injuries (old and new), history of injuries, and any injuries to a very young baby. While some of these injuries can occur by accident, child abuse should be suspected if the explanations do not fit the injuries. A child who is consistently withdrawn or overly aggressive, who complains of soreness, wears inappropriate clothing for the weather, or who is a chronic runaway may be a victim of abuse.

What is Sexual Abuse?
The legal definition for the sexual molestation of a child is an act of a person (adult or any person who is older than the child) which forces, coerces or threatens a child to have any form of sexual contact or to engage in any type of sexual activity. Sexual abuse includes both touching and non-touching offenses such as provocative language or behavior. In its most extreme forms, it includes sexual intercourse and its deviations. Sexual abuse also includes indecent exposure, exposure to pornographic material, and masturbating in front of a child. Physical offenses include fondling, making a child touch an adult’s sexual organs, or any penetration of a child’s vagina or anus by any object that does not have a valid medical purpose. The sexual exploitation of a child for the purposes of prostitution or use in pornography is also a criminal offense.

What is Neglect?
Neglect is defined as a failure to provide necessary food, shelter, medical care, supervision, or education to a child under the age of 18. Neglect also includes an absence of love, security, and stimulation that is necessary for positive parent-child relationships to develop. Neglect can be physical, emotional/psychological, educational, or medical. Child neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment/abuse reported to child protective service agencies.

Child neglect is defined as deliberate failure by a caretaker to provide a child with shelter, food, clothing, education, supervision, medical care and other basic necessities. Unlike physical and sexual abuse, which can occur once or infrequently, neglect represents an ongoing pattern of inadequate care. Indicators of neglect include poor hygiene, poor weight gain, inadequate medical care, dressing inappropriately for the weather, chronic lateness to or absence from school, constant complaints of hunger or rummaging for food, and severe developmental delays. Child neglect is not necessarily related to poverty. It reflects the absence of proper household management and a lack of concern and care-taking for the child.

What is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior that can seriously interfere with a child’s positive emotional development. It is the systematic tearing down of a child. These harmful behaviors can include constant rejection or terrorizing of a child, refusal to provide basic nurturing, refusal to get help for a child’s psychological problems, failure to provide the physical or mental stimulation that a child needs to grow, and exposure to domestic violence, drug abuse or criminal activity. Children who are constantly shamed, terrorized, humiliated or rejected suffer as much as children who are physically abused.

Why do people abuse children?
It’s hard to imagine that anyone would deliberately inflict harm on a child. Many times physical abuse is the result of excessive discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate for the child’s age. The parent or caretaker may be unaware of the force with which he or she strikes a child. Most parents want to be loving and effective, but they sometimes lose control or have poor coping skills. Factors which contribute to child abuse include the lack of proper parenting skills, unrealistic expectations about children’s behavior and capabilities, a parent’s or caretaker’s own negative childhood experience, social isolation, problems with substance abuse and frequent family crises. Child abuse is a symptom of parents or caregivers having a difficult time coping with their current situations.

Who should I report child abuse?
All persons should report suspected cases of child abuse. If you suspect a child has been or is currently being abused or neglected, call your local Department of Human Resources, Department of Children’s Services, or local law enforcement.