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What is Child Abuse, How to Spot It and Prevent It

Updated on July 29, 2015

This hub is a response to the HubMob Topic Protecting Our Children - a campaign to let people know that June is a month dedicated to child awareness issues. I chose the topic Child Abuse because a child of any age, sex, race, religion, and socioeconomic background can fall victim to child abuse therefore it is important that everyone should know about it and what one can do to help.

Do you know a child in your family, among your relatives, in your neighborhood, in school or immediate community who is/was a victim or is/was suspected to be a victim of child abuse?

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Definition of Child Abuse

Many hubbers have already published hubs about What is Child Abuse. A list of some of them are on the right hand side. Just to give a summary:

Child Abuse is any recent act or failure to act by a parent or caretaker which results in harm, injury or death to a child. The four major categories of child abuse are child neglect, physical child abuse, emotional child abuse and sexual child abuse.

Child neglect is defined as the failure of a person responsible for a child’s care and upbringing to meet the basic needs of children including housing, clothing, food, education and access to medical care. It may include abandonment of the child.

Physical abuse is physical injury directed at a child by an adult. It involves acts like striking, slapping, whipping, excessive pinching, kicking, biting, burning, bruising, choking, shaking a child and many more. Spanking is subject to controversy as to whether it qualifies as physical abuse.

Emotional abuse is also known as verbal abuse, mental abuse or psychological maltreatment. It could include name-calling, ridicule, destruction of personal belongings, torture or bizarre punishment such as confinement in a closet or dark room or being tied to a chair, excessive criticism, inappropriate or excessive demands and withholding communication.

Child sexual abuse or CSA is inappropriate sexual behavior with a child by an adult or older adolescent. Forms of CSA include viewing or fondling a child’s genitals, making the child fondle the adult’s genitals, actual sexual contact against a child, or using a child to produce child pornography.

Would You Help to Stop Child Abuse?

What can we do to help stop child abuse?

I believe many are already aware about this issue. But the most important question to answer in this child abuse awareness is how can we help stop child abuse? How can we help innocent children from suffering the physical, emotional, mental and sexual pain that they don't deserve?

Child Abuse Prevention

April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States since 1983. One important thing to remember about child abuse is that it is a problem with solutions and it can be prevented. Often times, people get caught up in the drama propagated by media and fail to take the necessary action to resolve the issue.

Most often, the perpetrator of child abuse is someone the child knows, such as a parent, family friend or relative or the child caretaker. Child abuse usually happens in the child's own home, though it can happen anywhere. Therefore, prevention should start in the child's own home. Parents are called upon to be a nurturing parent taking necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of their children. Be aware of your child's caregiver's behaviors as well. Know who are the friends of your child in school, in the neighborhood or even online. It is important that parents teach their child to be aware of these dangers and teach them what to do to avoid becoming a victim.

There are cases when child abuse is caused by the parent himself/herself. Common causes of such include poverty, divorce, addiction, drug abuse, stress, limited education, job loss, and isolation. If we can help address these causes, then we can help prevent child abuse. There are prevention programs which work to help parents in this regard. One is Healthy Families America - a program launched in 1992 with the goal to

  • systematically reach out to parents to offer resources and support
  • cultivate the growth of nurturing, responsive, parent-child relationships
  • promote healthy childhood growth and development and
  • build the foundations for strong family functioning.

Communities are also called upon to respond to family crises and offer extra support to families when they need it, such as in times of illness, job loss, housing problems and other stressors. In these times of economic crisis, struggling families need help. Why not offer to baby-sit or run errands, or just lend a friendly ear. Give your used clothing, furniture and toys to other needy families to help relieve the stress of financial burdens that may cause some parents to take out on their kids. You can also volunteer to give your time and money to programs that support children and families like parent support groups or day care centers.

For more ideas to help prevent child abuse, visit Prevent Child Abuse America.

Summary of Basic Procedures in Reporting and Investigating Child Abuse and Neglect in Massachusetts

How to Spot Child Abuse and Report It

Every year, there are approximately 3 million suspected cases of child abuse that are reported in the US. There are some cases of child abuse that may never get reported. By knowing the warning signs of abuse, you can make a report if you believe a child's welfare is in danger.

Some of the physical and behavioral warning signs that a child has been abused are listed below. A child who shows these signs does not necessarily mean they are abused but these raise a red flag that something is wrong with them.

  • They may seem nervous with adults or fearful of certain people.
  • They may seem tired often or complain of bad dreams or not sleeping well.
  • They children may not want to go home and will show up early and stay late at school and extracurricular activities.
  • Some may show extreme behaviors, either very passive and withdrawn or aggressive and disruptive.

If you witness an abusive act against a child or even suspect that a child is being mistreated, don't hesitate to make a report. Reporting child abuse could save a life. Each State has a system to receive and respond to reports of possible child abuse and neglect. Professionals and concerned citizens can call statewide hotlines, local child protective services, or law enforcement agencies to share their concerns. For more information on reporting child abuse cases, visit Child Welfare dot gov.

Helpful Book for Emotional and Spiritual Healing and Recovery

Child Abuse Recovery

How I wish that after a child is removed from his abusive environment and rescued from his perpetrators, that his pain and suffering would also immediately go away. Sad to say, that is not the case. There are many ill consequences that the child must face with respect to his physical, psychological, behavioral and emotional life after the abusive experiences.

Some of the effects of child abuse that a victim might have to cope up with are: Alcohol and/or other drug abuse; anxiety; attention problems; bad dreams; behavior problems; compulsive sexual behaviors; depression; eating disorders; fear or shyness; learning problems; repeated self-injury; sexual dysfunction; social withdrawal; and suicide attempts.

Some physical wounds would heal but the pain and the broken spirit takes a longer recovery process. Counseling therapy helps in either individual or support group setting. Friends and family can help the child abuse victim feel loved and accepted again.

Freedom from fear, addiction, anxiety, depression and finding real joy again can only be found in God alone. As Psalm 34:17 says "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Celebrate Recovery is one Christ-centered, Biblically-based program for individuals and their families who struggle with emotional distress and addictive issues. Many have found new meaning in their life again after going through this program.


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    • Chin chin profile imageAUTHOR

      Chin chin 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you, Tiffany Delite. I think so, too, that abuses can become generational and that is sad. But I believe that one can be set free just as when Jesus sets one free from the bondage of sin and curses. Be blessed.

    • tiffany delite profile image

      tiffany delite 

      6 years ago from united states

      this is a great hub voted up and useful. one thing i would like to add is that child abuse is often carried through generations because the child learns abuse through personal experience and then in turn abuses his/her own children and the cycle goes on and on. it's so sad and such a helpless feeling :( blessings...

    • Chin chin profile imageAUTHOR

      Chin chin 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks Cassandra for sharing your thoughts. It is possible for an adult to continue to be emotionally abused. But why would somebody who is old enough continue to accept these abuses (curses and destructive criticism)? Maybe because he is not able to see any worth in himself. Maybe because his self-image was greatly distorted by the abuse he received as a child. He sees himself as good for nothing.

      Now, that is a lie from the devil. That is not so true. He is somebody special, maybe not in the eyes of his parents or his wife, but in the eyes of God, he is. The reason why God sent His Son to die on the cross is because God loves him and wants to give him a more meaningful life. This true meaning in life can only be found in God.

      I would like to encourage you, Cassandra, if you know him and if you can, try to bring him to a support group like that in the Celebrate Recovery program. He doesn't have to just absorb all the curses and criticisms. He can be free from all that. But he must begin with a change in his own heart and mind.

    • Cassandra Lai profile image

      Cassandra Fun Tze Lai 

      8 years ago from Klang

      Dear Chin chin, thank you for this hub. I have a question here to ask : in present world, I strong believe not only child (young age) being abused and have lack of defend, but adult even at age of over 50 years old who are so used to being emotional abused by his parent (like what you have mentioned above). I have seen the victim being curse and criticized, restrict the victim movement by withhold his financial freedom etc. Imagine at the age of 54, age of retiring was contempt and push to seek employment. As His wife, she can only help to reduce the abused by scolding back the abused. Sharing with pastor of the church, Pastor push the responsible on the wife, very sad case. Properly if you are in the counseling part, I will write more to you about this matter.

    • Chin chin profile imageAUTHOR

      Chin chin 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      Hi,Jeff, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You still have a lot to deal with to get better. Let me just say, you can't handle it alone. First, I believe with all my heart that God can help you through this. Cry out to Him, He will answer. The Bible says, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." If you can get hold of a Bible, read it. You will find comfort in God's words.

      Second, if you think your parents can't help you right now, you need to find someone, a trustworthy friend or a support group. I suggest you join the Celebrate Recovery program - I don't think you have to pay to join in, it's not just for the "saved", it is also for the "unsaved".

      It may still be a long process. I'lll pray for you to get better.

    • jeff3600 profile image


      8 years ago

      thank you for your very informative article. But what about those of us who never get "saved" as you would say? what about those of us who never tell anyone because we are to scarred, and nobody ever sees those signs. I never had visible bruises, i never had nightmares, but i always complained about my family, and going home on the weekends or for vacations. i even purposly joined a bunch of clubs and sports so i wouldnt have to spend so much time at home. Yeah it looked like a happy family but my parents always act when there in public. im sure most abusive people do. but in health class i even had to do a report on something that involved my life, like aids, hiv, or in my case abuse. but instead of having me talk to someone at school the idiots told my parents and made me talk to them. i may be 21 now and obvi its better cause im away at college the majority of the year. but i still deal with it, and i still have so many things going on in my head because off it. it still affects me. and id like to know what happens to people like me, and what can i do to get better? i dont have money to see a therapist, or the time, and my parents obvi wont agree to it, or pay for it.

    • Chin chin profile imageAUTHOR

      Chin chin 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      Sam, thanks for your input. We do need to move on with our lives in spite of the good, the bad and the ugly that is happening. Just hope next time please refrain from using foul words.

    • Chin chin profile imageAUTHOR

      Chin chin 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      Stanley, I'm glad that you have come to know and believe God in spite of what you have gone through. We can never really understand why bad things happen to us. But that should not stop us from moving on just as Sam said. God can still make something beautiful out of life that had been broken. He's in that business all right. Just think about Mary Magdalene, or Zaccheus, or Job who suffered severely in hands of Satan. I pray that you will find the freedom and the new and beautiful life that God has in store for you.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Dear Stanely

      i am only 15 years old so you may not wanna be hearing/reading this from me, but ive been through some abuse myself. the only thing you can do in these kind of situations is learn from them. dont let them dammage your life forever, because if you do that your letting the people that hurt you win. you have to learn from it and say to yourself ITS YOUR LIFe. what they did to you WONT hold you back anymore, you cant let them win Stanely. Be strong and show them that they didnt break you! lifes tough but its always what you make it to be. you have to create so much more for your life. dont dwell on it and forever let it hold you back. move on and rock this bitch that we call life. Live your life to the fullest, you only live once...

    • Stanley_19802 profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello Chin,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I am greatful. There was a time where I stopped believing in god. I was angry. I felt how could there be a god with all the bad that happens? And if there was one, how could he let this happen to me? It was a good friend who told me, it's the good AND the bad that helps us on our journey through life. This life, the ones before, and the ones we have yet to live. My feelings have changed, I do know there is a god now. I think with that, it's something we all have to discover for ourselves. The abuse however, it was done by people I trusted. People who were supposed to keep me safe. Parents, family, teachers, hospital staff members...people who you are supposed to feel safe with. It hurt me deep. I have never been able to feel safe. As far back as I can remember, I was always afraid. Always waiting, wondering if the next person I met, the next teacher, the next baby sitter...if they were going to be the ones to hurt me next. What would they do to me? How long? How much would it hurt this time? And as bad as that all is, the PTSD is so much worse. The abuse in the psych hospital. The things they did to me in there. I was powerless to stop them. There was always more of them than me, and nothing I could say or do would stop them. Not even my own mom, who I told of the abuse would believe me. She never came to stop it. Because of the nightmares and flashbacks of what happened in those hospitals, I am forced to go through it again and again and again. It's torture. I am afraid to close my eyes, afraid to sleep, afraid of what I am going to be forced to relive this time. I often think about ending my life. I have been down the road of suicide many times. Just wanting the pain to stop. The torture to stop. I really do hope that there will be a day that I can be at peace. To actually feel happy. Heck, just to feel safe. To not be afraid of someone doing harm to me. And that's the problem with child abuse, heck, even adult abuse's life changing. Life altering. Do what ever you have to do to protect a child from abuse. If you see it, stop it. Step in front of the child. Do what ever you need to do because they will remember it and thank you. I would thank you. Thank you!


    • Chin chin profile imageAUTHOR

      Chin chin 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      Hi, Stanley. Thank you for boldly sharing your experience. Something really needs to be done when it comes to protecting the children from abuse. Children don't deserve to be hurt, maltreated or frightened. But I pray for you that you will finally have the freedom from the nightmares you have from being abused as a child. I believe that you can be free. God wants you to be free. Why not try the Celebrate Recovery program, I've read testimonies of people who have hurts, hang-ups and habits that have been changed by the power of God. I encourage you to try God. He loves you.

    • Chin chin profile imageAUTHOR

      Chin chin 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Maita, for reading this hub.

    • Stanley_19802 profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello Chin,

      First, let me say thank you for writing this hub. You cover many area's of abuse and how to prevent it. As a child, I prayed every day for someone to save me from my abusers. But sadly no one came. Often, people just looked the other way and pretended it wasn't happening. My own parents told me I was lying so I didn't have to go to school, or could come home from the hospital. But even home wasn't safe. My dad drank and beat me for the littlest things. My mom was more emotional abuse. Although she hit me from time to time, it was her words and actions that did the damage. For example, my mom's favorite thing to do to me as a kid was call the children's psychiatric hospital and tell them I was suicidal and tried to kill myself. Because of the law and her report, I was held 3 days minimum each time she called. It could be anything. Arguing, fighting with my brother. Getting sent home from school for fighting when what really happened is I was defending myself from a bully, but in the end, it was still fighting. A ambulance would show up, I would be tied to the gurney with 5 point lether restraints and taken to the hospital. My mom didn't want to punish me herself, such a grounding me. So she let the hospital do it. Thanks to the psych ward, I have a spinal injury that one of the staff did to me. I take 2 vicodin, 1 pill similar in strangth to morphine and a muscle relaxer just to handle the pain, and often times, it still hurts like hell even with the medication. Each stab of pain directly triggers a flashback of the incident. I was diagnosed with PTSD about 6 or 7 years ago. Long story short, I will never understand why people hurt me the way they did, and why no one would protect me. I tried to take my life 3 different times between age 10-18. It was 3 too many. At the time, I just couldn't take the abuse any longer. When I was 17, I stumbled onto self injury. I accidently cut myself just after a abuse had taken place and found the injury made me feel good. It took away the emotional pain. I started out using a thumb tack and dragging it along the skin on my arm. That was enough for about 2 years. Then I moved on to razor blades. It took off from that point. What started out as just a once in awhile thing, turned into a several times a week thing, into daily, and at it's worst, was 3 times a day on average and sometimes I cut words such as loser, die, and other self hating words. Things are a little better these days. My self injury is down to about 3-4 times a month. But everything that was done to me, every assult at the hands of those who were supposed to keep me safe, I remember every single time they hurt me. And because of the PTSD, I am forced to relive it over and over and over again. I HATE MY LIFE. I just wish someone, anyone would have protected me growing up. No child should live in fear. No child deserves to be abused. Only one of my abusers was punished for what he did, and all he got was fired and a note in his record so he couldn't work with kids again. That's it. No jail time, no fines, nothing. Me, I get to relive what he did every night in my nightmares. Things need to change. Stiffer laws passed. Something.


    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      8 years ago from US

      excellent information chin, thanks, Maita


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