Child Abuse and Neglect - Topic Overview
What is child abuse and neglect?
Child abuse and
neglect includes any act that harms a child. Some people use the term "child
maltreatment" to include both abuse and neglect.
Children who are
maltreated may suffer in many ways. Young children are at special risk. They
may not grow properly, or they may have learning problems. They may feel bad
about themselves and not trust other people. They may be scared or angry.
Sometimes they die.
Children are not able to understand that abuse
or neglect is not their fault. They may think that they did something wrong and
deserve what happened. It is up to adults who care to protect them. If you know
about or suspect child abuse or neglect, there are ways you can help.
What are the types of abuse and neglect?
abuse means doing something that hurts a child. This may be physical,
emotional, or sexual. Neglect means not giving or doing something that a child
- Physical abuse is often the easiest type to
notice. It includes hitting, kicking, shaking, pinching, and burning. It may
leave bruises, cuts, or other marks and cause pain, broken bones, or internal
- Emotional abuse is saying or doing things that make a
child feel unloved, unwanted, unsafe, or worthless. It can range from yelling
and threatening to ignoring the child and not giving love and support. It may
not leave scars you can see, but the damage to a child is just as
- Sexual abuse is any sexual contact between an adult and a
child or between an older child and a younger child. Showing pornography to a
child is a type of sexual abuse.
- Neglect happens when a child
does not get the shelter, schooling, clothing, medical care, or protection he
or she needs. Child neglect is just as serious as abuse and is even more
What should you do if you suspect that a child has been abused or neglected?
Call the police or local child protective
services. You do not have to give your name. A hospital may be able to connect
you to places in your area that can help. Many hospitals have special programs
to deal with child abuse and neglect.
If a child is in immediate
danger or has been badly hurt, don't wait. Call
911 or other emergency services right
If you are a child or teen who is being abused, don't keep
the secret. Tell someone who can make a difference: a trusted family member,
teacher, counselor, or doctor. You do not deserve to be abused.
National Child Abuse hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer
information, advice, and support. Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
What should you do if you are afraid someone might harm your child?