What is Child Abuse

Child abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver, through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse of a child occurs when a parent or caregiver causes any non-accidental physical injury to a child. More than 28 percent of adults report physical abuse as a child.

Physical abuse includes striking, kicking, burning, biting, hair pulling, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping or any other action that injures a child. Even if the caregiver didn’t mean to cause injury, when the child is injured it is abuse. Physical discipline from a parent that does not injure or impair a child is not considered abuse; however, non-violent alternatives are always available.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when an adult uses a child for sexual purposes or involves a child in sexual acts. It also includes when a child who is older or more powerful uses another child for sexual gratification or excitement. More than 20 percent of adults report sexual abuse as a child.

Sexual abuse of children may include non-contact abuse, making a child view a sex act, inappropriate sexual talk, contact abuse, forcing children into sexual acts, child prostitution and child pornography.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver harms a child’s mental and social development, or causes severe emotional harm. While a single incident may be abuse, most emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that causes damage over time. More than 10 percent of adults report emotional abuse as a child.

Emotional abuse can include rejecting or ignoring, shaming or humiliating, terrorizing or isolating.

Child neglect

Child neglect occurs when a parent or caregiver does not give the care, supervision, affection and support needed for a child’s health, safety and well-being.

Child neglect may include physical neglect and inadequate supervision, emotional neglect, medical neglect and educational neglect

Report abuse

If you suspect a child may be abused or in danger, notify the police or Child Protective Services immediately. Kentucky’s Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-752-6200. In Indiana, that number is 1-800-800-5556. All callers have the right to anonymity.