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Child Abuse and Neglect - Topic Overview

What is child abuse and neglect?

Child abuse means doing something that hurts a child. Neglect means not giving or doing something that a child needs.

  • Physical abuse includes hitting, kicking, shaking, pinching, and burning. It may leave bruises, cuts, or other marks and cause pain, broken bones, or internal injuries.
  • 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 real.
  • 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 more common.

Abuse or neglect hurts children in many ways. Young children are at special risk. They may not grow properly. 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 often believe that abuse or neglect is their fault. They may think that they did something wrong and deserve what happened. It is up to adults who care to protect them.

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