What is Abuse?


What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse can be constituted by a single incident, or a number of incidents that occur over time. It doesn’t matter how much a child has been harmed, but whether they have been harmed, are being harmed, or are at risk of physical, psychological, or emotional harm.

Types of Abuse:


Physical Abuse:

Sometimes it can be difficult to know if your instincts about child abuse and neglect are right. There are often behavioural or physical signs of stress when a child has been, or is experiencing abuse. Physical abuse can include:

  • Shaking
  • Hitting, punching, smacking or kicking
  • Burning
  • Pinching or biting
  • Female genital mutilation.

Sexual abuse:

Sexual abuse can be physical, verbal or emotional and happens when an adult, adolescent or another child uses power or authority to engage a child in any form of sexual activity. It can include:

  • Sexual touching or kissing
  • Talking in a sexually explicit way that is inappropriate for the age and development of the child, including via phone, email, text and other forms of communication
  • Persistently intruding on a child’s privacy
  • Exposing a child to pornography or sexual acts
  • Forcing a child to pose or perform sexual acts
  • Any form of penetration or oral sex.

Emotional abuse:

Emotional abuse occurs when a child’s emotional, social or intellectual development is threatened or impaired. It happens when an adult repeatedly makes a child feel frightened, ashamed, upset, alone or worthless. Emotional abuse can include:

  • Excessive yelling, threats and using fear
  • Persistent criticism, teasing, bullying or embarrassing and humiliating a child
  • Rejection and hostility
  • Witnessing domestic violence

Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect:

The effects of child abuse and neglect can be significant and lead to lifelong problems. It can impact a child’s brain development, how they feel and think about themselves, how successful they are at school, even their physical development and skills. In the long term, it can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, difficulty developing and maintaining good relationships, unemployment, and all sorts of social disadvantage all due to their childhood experiences, and not their fault.

Last year

over 48,000

cases of child abuse were confirmed


11 Minutes

another child suffers abuse or neglect


29,000 kids

accessed therapy services with Act for Kids



If you’re a parent and need support there are a lot of services available to help with a variety of different issues, from budgeting to managing difficult behaviour. Many of these services are provided free of charge from organisations like Act for Kids.



Sometimes parents just need to let out some of their stress and feelings, don’t judge them or interrupt, show genuine interest in how they feel. If you’re worried about them suggest they could also talk to their doctor, a counsellor or a parent helpline.



Take the time to listen to the kids you know, engage with them and build relationships. It’s important for kids to have several safe people in their lives, not just their parents.



If you’re a parent, connect with the other parents you know through school or sport/hobby groups. They share the same challenges, offer support and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Offer Help

Offer Help

Offer help if you see parents struggling, it can make a big difference. You can also make some quick enquiries about free support in your local area, perhaps there’s a free class at the PCYC that you can suggest for your neighbour’s kids so they learn something new, burn some energy, make friends and their parents get a break.



Local authorities can link families to support services to help them address any issues that might be causing stress and compromising the safety and wellbeing of their children. If you don’t speak up, who will? You can remain anonymous and you could be the person who makes a real difference to a child’s life.