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Health Information For Parents
Child abuse happens when someone caring for a child hurts a child’s feelings or body. It can happen to boys or girls in any family. Often, hurt feelings (or emotional trauma) last long after a hurt body has healed.
Knowing the dangers of abuse and what to do if you suspect it is key to keeping all children safe.
Physical abuse is when a child’s body has been hurt. Hitting hard with a hand or an object like a belt can leave bruises or cuts and cause pain. Shaking, pushing, choking, punching, painful grabbing, and kicking also can be physical abuse.
Sexual abuse is sexual contact (like sexual acts) or non-contact sexual activities (like taking or sharing sexual photos and sexual talk) between:
Most cases of sexual abuse involve a close trusted adult or family member who abuses the child’s trust. Often, the child is pressured or talked into the activity, offered gifts, or asked to keep secrets, not physically forced into it.
Neglect is when an adult doesn’t do what is needed to take care of a child. This means not giving the child enough:
Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) happens when adults caring for a child judge, threaten, put down or reject kids or teens, withholding love so the child feels bad about themselves or worthless.
Substance abuse, when adults use drugs or too much alcohol, can put a child in danger. It can cause adults to neglect or physically hurt a child. When adults use drugs or overuse alcohol around a child, many state laws say this is child abuse, even if no one neglected or physically hurt the child.
In some states, it’s child abuse if:
Medical child abuse is when adult caregivers harm a child with too much medical care, such as medicines, appointments, surgeries, or lab tests that are not needed.
There is not one type of person who causes child abuse. Most of the time a child knows the abuser well. Sometimes people who abuse children were abused when they were children.
Sometimes, people who abuse kids can show some signs. For example, parents who abuse their children may:
Kids and teens often have a hard time speaking up about abuse. So knowing the signs of child abuse can help.
Kids who are being abused might:
Kids who see abuse (but are not the victims themselves) or see violence between adults caring for them sometimes show similar signs.
These signs don’t always point to abuse. Kids going through stressful times — like their parents’ separation or divorce, a move, or the death of a loved one — also might be sad, angry, or withdrawn. But if physical signs (like bruises) happen along with behavior problems, that’s a stronger sign of abuse.
If you think a child is being abused or a child tells you about abuse, contact your local:
You also can contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You don’t have to give your name.
You might not be sure of the abuse, but having a concern is enough. The authorities will look into things and find out if abuse is happening. It is better to report and have no abuse found than to not act on your concern while a child continues to be hurt.
Never threaten a person or take the law into your own hands. Let the legal system do its work.
If you are worried that you might hurt a child in your care, make sure the child is somewhere safe, and then speak with a friend, relative, or health care professional. You also can contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You might just need someone to talk to or you may want to seek counseling.
Not all suspicions of child abuse turn out to be true. But all deserve serious attention and fast action.
The earlier abuse is identified and stopped, the earlier medical care, therapy, and counseling can help children and families heal.
So if you suspect abuse, speak up. If a child tells you about abuse, take it seriously. All children deserve to be heard, protected, and helped.
Abusive head trauma is the leading cause of death in child abuse cases in the United States. It happens when someone shakes an infant.
Kids and teens who live through a traumatic event can develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Healing is possible with the help of professional counseling and support from loved ones.
Depression is very common. For more information about depression and feeling better, check out this article.
What’s it like to go to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist? Find out in this article for kids.
Sometimes after experiencing a traumatic event, a person has a strong and lingering reaction known as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Getting treatment and support can make all the difference.
Abuse can take many forms. This article talks about recognizing abuse, its effects, and what someone who is being abused can do.
Alcoholism causes anguish not only for the person who drinks, but for everyone who is involved with that person. But there are things you can do to help cope with the problems alcoholism creates in families.
Does your boyfriend or girlfriend treat you as well as you treat him or her? Does your BF or GF support you in good times as well as bad? Does he or she get who you really are? Find out if you’re in a healthy relationship.
Child abuse is never OK. Find out more in this article for kids.
Noticing your feelings and saying how you feel can help you feel better. This article for kids has ideas on how to practice talking about feelings and emotions.
Abuse has no place in love. Read this article to find out how to recognize the signs of abuse and how you can get help.
It can be hard to understand, but people who cut themselves sometimes do it because it actually makes them feel better. They are overflowing with emotions – like sadness, depression, or anger – that they have trouble expressing.
Rape is forced, unwanted sexual intercourse. Rape is about power, not sex. Both men and women of any age can be raped. Find out what you can do and how to take care of yourself after a rape.
Counselors, therapists, clinical social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists are all experts in mental health. But there can be differences. Learn more.
When a teen commits suicide, everyone is affected. The reasons behind a suicide or attempted suicide can be complex, but often there are warning signs.
Anxiety is a normal part of growing up, and all kids experience it. But when it becomes extreme, it can interfere with a child’s overall happiness.
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person. Here are some suggestions on what to do if online bullying has become part of your child’s life.
Teary and tantrum-filled goodbyes are common with separation anxiety, which is a perfectly normal part of childhood development.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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