What is child abuse?

Column courtesy of the Anti Violence Advocates Society in Barriere

What is child abuse?

Child abuse can be defined as any mistreatment of a child that results in physical injury, death, sexual exploitation, psychological harm or emotional distress. It can also be a failure to provide for the physical and emotional needs of a child.

Types of Child Abuse?

Child abuse can be defined as any mistreatment of a child that results in physical injury, death, sexual exploitation, psychological harm or emotional distress. It can also be a failure to provide for the physical and emotional needs of a child. The main types of child abuse are as follows:

Physical child Abuse

Physical child abuse usually involves an injury or the intentional infliction of pain, but it doesn’t have to be high level violence to classify. Physical abuse may be a slap, a shove, kicking, beating, punching, burning, scalding, shaking or cutting. It can be said to be any abusive action that touches a child physically and causes harm or distress. It is often intentional, but not always. A parent who is emotionally unable to cope with the demands of disciplining a child may lash out in anger and frustration. Or, a parent who has  grown up in an abusive environment may be blindly following the pattern of their own upbringing. Some parents are unable to draw the line between abuse and normal discipline.

Emotional/psychological child abuse

Emotional and psychological child abuse is far harder to see from the outside. It can, however, be even more damaging. Emotional abuse of a child can lead to a deconstruction of a child’s personality as he or she loses all confidence in the world.

A parent, caregiver or person in authority is the centre of a child’s universe, so when this relationship is abusive the child really feels he or she has nowhere to turn. A person who is emotionally abusive towards a child can remove the child’s perception of normality. The child is unable to follow a normal set of rules and never knows when he will have pleased or displeased the adult, nor understands why. Emotional abuse may take the form of belittling or name calling, shouting or threatening.  An abusive parent may also withdraw affection from a child, refusing to speak to him or her or withdrawing physical comforts like hugs and closeness.

It also, sometimes, means forcing a child to live in an abusive environment where he or she is witness to acts of violence or emotional abuse towards his mother or other family member(s). As a result, the child sees the world as an unpredictable and unsafe place from which he has no escape.

A child who is constantly told that he or she is worthless, stupid, fat, lazy or ugly quickly begins to believe this. And, as it’s much harder for a child to find avenues of escape or support than it is for an adult, they tend to remain in a secretive, abusive world for far longer.

If you have been living in an abusive relationship, you may feel confused and afraid and not know where to turn or what to do.

You may have mixed feelings of love and anger; wanting the abuse to end, but not wanting the relationship to be over.

If you are in immediate danger call 911. For help contact Interior Health Crisis Line 1-888-353-2273