The Mayo Clinic defines child abuse as:
- Physical abuse. Physical child abuse occurs
when a child is purposely physically injured or put at risk of harm by another
- Sexual abuse. Sexual child abuse is any
sexual activity with a child, such as fondling, oral-genital contact,
intercourse, exploitation or exposure to child pornography.
- Emotional abuse. Emotional child abuse
means injuring a child's self-esteem or emotional well-being. It includes
verbal and emotional assault — such as continually belittling or berating a
child — as well as isolating, ignoring or rejecting a child.
- Medical abuse. Medical child abuse occurs
when someone gives false information about illness in a child that requires
medical attention, putting the child at risk of injury and unnecessary medical
- Neglect. Child neglect is failure to
provide adequate food, shelter, affection, supervision, education, or dental or
The Mayo Clinic continues:
A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or
confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if
the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. That's why it's vital
to watch for red flags, such as:
- Withdrawal from friends or usual activities.
- Changes in behavior—such as aggression, anger,
hostility or hyperactivity—or changes in school performance.
- Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a
sudden loss of self-confidence.
- An apparent lack of supervision.
- Frequent absences from school.
- Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he
or she doesn't want to go home.
- Attempts at running away.
- Rebellious or defiant behavior.
- Self-harm or attempts at suicide.
Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse
and can vary. Keep in mind that warning signs are just that—warning signs. The
presence of warning signs doesn't necessarily mean that a child is being
The Mayo Clinic advises:
If you are concerned that a child is being abused, or if you
worry that you might abuse your child, seek help immediately. These
organizations can provide information and referrals:
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline:
- Prevent Child Abuse America: 1-800-CHILDREN
Mayo Clinic—Child Abuse