Violence Prevention East
Child Abuse
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional maltreatment of a child such that the child's survival, security and/or development is endangered. It also includes chronic and serious neglect. Abuse is rarely a single event.
  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. In 75% of these cases, the abuser will be a family member or someone well known to the child.
  • In 1996, family members were responsible for the majority of assaults against very young children. Almost 70% of victims under the age of three were physically assaulted by family members, and parents accounted for 85% of these.
  • According to a Health Canada study, two-thirds of murdered infants are killed by a parent, and this pattern holds for other young children.
  • Girls were the victims of assaults by family members more often than were boys. Victims were female in 56% of physical assaults and almost 80% of sexual assaults.
  • Fathers made up a large majority (80%) of parents accused of assaulting their children.
Types of Child Abuse
Physical Abuse: the non-accidental, wilful infliction of physical pain or injury such as slapping, kicking, punching, burning, choking, stabbing and/or shooting. Injuries sustained may range from minor bruising, burns, welts, or bite marks, to major fractures, broken bones, and death. It may result from many actions including the excessive and inappropriate use of discipline.

Sexual Abuse: refers to a range of sexual activity/behaviour, perpetrated by an adult, adolescent, or someone older than the child, for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator. Examples include instances where the child is encouraged, coerced, forced or enticed into acts as fondling, sexual intercourse, or any form of sexual exploitation such as juvenile prostitution or pornography.

Emotional Abuse: may range from habitual humiliation of the child to withholding life-sustaining nurturing. Lack of nurturing in the early years can be particularly damaging. Emotional abuse is persistent and chronic and results in some degree of emotional damage to the child such as severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or self-destructive or aggressive behaviour. Emotional abuse or neglect also includes inappropriately high expectations and demands of the infant/child; a rejecting parent who repeatedly communicates angry feelings toward the child; and the chronic rejecting, ignoring, criticizing, intimidating and terrorizing of the child.

Witnessing Abuse: children of battered women who witness repeated abuse of their mothers may also be affected similarly and often display these same behaviours.

Neglect: chronic and serious omission on the part of the parent that results in physical harm to the child. Chronic refers to a pattern of conduct over time and seriously conveys a marked and substantial departure form the standard of care expected by a reasonable parent. It is important to note that chronic neglect may be easily confused with poverty or lack of knowledge or may be associated with parents who are overwhelmed with other problems. Therefore, attention must be paid to the duration, consistency and pervasiveness of indicators of abuse including indicators of physical harm.
Impacts of Abuse on Children
  • Failure to thrive as infants
  • Physical injury
  • Fearful, acute anxiety, psychosomatic disorders
  • Behavioural/Behavioural problems
  • Delayed development
  • Extreme passivity/withdrawal
  • Self-destructive or suicidal behaviour
  • Feelings of worthlessness/self-blame
  • Powerlessness
  • Sexual promiscuity/self-loathing
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor school performance
Legal Obligation to Report
Every person has a legal obligation to report suspicions that a child may be in need of protective services.
What can you do?
  • Talk to the child in private
  • Listen to the child
  • Remain calm and be aware of negative body language
  • Reassure the child
  • Call for assistance immediately

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