What is child abuse?Child abuse includes:
• physical abuse,
• sexual abuse,
• emotional abuse,
• and neglect (which is the failure to provide a minimum standard of care for a child’s physical and emotional needs.)
Child abuse is seldom a single event. Rather, it occurs with regularity, often increasing in violence. It crosses all boundaries of income, race, ethnicity, and religious faith. A child abuser is usually closely related to the child, such as a parent, step-parent or other caregiver.
In homes where child abuse occurs, fear, instability and confusion replace the love, comfort and nurturing that children need. Abused children live in constant fear of physical harm from a person who is supposed to care for and protect them. They may feel guilt at loving the abuser or blame themselves for causing the violence.
The impact of child abuseVictims of child abuse may feel that they are bad and deserve the abuse. They usually have poor self-esteem. In addition to physical injuries that may be the result of abuse, child victims may develop eating disorders or sleep disturbances, including nightmares. They may develop speech disorders or developmental lags in their motor skills. Many child victims demonstrate some form of self-destructive behavior. They may develop physical illness such as asthma, ulcers, allergies, or recurring headaches. Also, they often experience irrational and persistent fears or hatreds and demonstrate either passive or aggressive behavioral extremes.
Trauma in children can take years to manifest; therefore, it is important that victims of child abuse receive counseling as soon as possible after the abuse is disclosed.