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Child Abuse

What is child abuse?

Child abuse is the physical harm, emotional harm, neglect, or sexual harm of a child. A child could be abused by a parent or step-parent, another family member, a babysitter, a coach, a teacher or even another kid. The most important thing for anyone to know about child abuse is that if you are experiencing it, or if you suspect that someone you know is being abused, you should talk to a trusted adult about the situation right away, and keep talking about it until someone steps in to make it stop.

What are the different kinds of child abuse?

Physical abuse is when someone causes physical harm to a child such as hitting, kicking, choking or shaking.  If a person’s actions cause a bruise, a scrape or visible mark on the skin, then it is physical abuse. Emotional abuse is when someone repeatedly makes a child feel worthless or fearful without physically hurting them.  This includes threatening, yelling or calling a child mean names. Sexual abuse is when an adult or another kid uses a child for sexual purposes or involves a child in sexual acts. Neglect is when a caregiver or parent does not do what is necessary to ensure the safe development of a child.  Examples of neglect could include not providing enough food, clothing, affection or a safe place to play or sleep.

How can you help to prevent child abuse?

The most important thing you can do is tell a trusted adult such as a parent, a school counselor or a teacher if you see something that seems like child abuse.  If it is your friend, you could encourage them to talk to you by asking if they need help.  

If you are experiencing abuse yourself, talk to a trusted adult right away or call the national child abuse hotline at: 1-800-4-A-Child (that’s 1-800-422-4453).



Learn More

More specific information about child abuseCommon myths about child abuse(PDF) Books on this topic(PDF) Service project ideas