What Is Child Abuse?
Abuse, also called maltreatment, is the act of emotionally, sexually or physically hurting a child. It includes depriving a child of affection and acceptance, neglecting to meet their day-to-day needs or endangering them in any way. Maltreatment also includes sexual exploitation and exposing a child to sexual contact, activity or behaviour.
Recognizing Signs Of Child Abuse
Children may display physical or emotional signs of maltreatment. Signs may include:
- Sudden changes in behaviour or performance.
- Unexplained physical injuries or injuries that don’t match the child’s explanation.
- Extreme behavioural reactions such as aggression or withdrawal.
- Sexual knowledge or behaviour beyond their stage of development.
- Does not want to be at home or runs away.
- Always hungry, sick or not suitably dressed for the conditions.
Be Aware Of Your Initial Reaction
A child may come to a trusted adult because they believe you can help. Although it is common to feel fear, disbelief, anger, or sadness, it’s important to set aside personal feelings and stay calm. Initial reactions are critical for the child’s path to healing.
- Allow the child to do most of the talking. If you need more understanding about the context, use an open-ended question or phrase such as “Tell me more.”
- Once you have reasonable grounds to suspect abuse, or the child discloses, stop asking any further questions.
- Reassure the child that telling you was the right thing to do.
- Explain to the child that you believe them and will need to tell someone who can help them. You cannot keep it a secret.
Document Any Comments Verbatim
This includes those made by the child, parent, caregiver, or anyone else relevant to the situation.
Report Your Concerns
When child abuse is exposed, we often hear that people had their suspicions but were too uncertain or afraid to do anything about them. Imagine how the child felt and how different their life could have been if someone had spoken up on their behalf.
It is your legal duty to report suspected child abuse. Your responsibility is simply to report reasonable suspicions or concerns, not prove them. Confidentiality is guaranteed. The report must come from the person who receives the information firsthand, not a third party. You do not need permission to report, nor can anyone prevent you from calling.
All calls are important, no matter how small. Your information could complete the puzzle and tip the scales for a response.