Child Abuse

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What Is...

Child abuse occurs when a parent, family member, or caretaker physically hurts a child or adolescent, makes that youth feel worthless, has sexual contact with him or her, or does not provide adequate food, care, or shelter. Child abuse can happen in all types of families, and in most cases, the abuser is related to the victim. Every state has laws against child abuse. There are four kinds of child abuse:

Physical abuse is when an adult hits or beats a child.
Emotional abuse is when an adult says things intended to make a child feel like a bad person.
Neglect is when an adult withholds food, care and shelter from a child.
Sexual abuse is when an adult forces, threatens, or induces a child into any kind of sexual contact.

Did You Know...


  • From July 2002 to July 2003, the Greensboro Police Department's Child Victims Squad worked 551 cases.
  • Children in the US are more likely to be victimized violently in their own homes than on the streets. A survey of adolescent boys' health revealed that one in eight high school boys had been physically and/or sexually abused. Sixty-six percent of boys who reported physical abuse said it occurred at home. Of sexually abused boys, 35 percent said the abuse happened at home. Forty-eight percent of physically or sexually abused boys said they had not talked to anyone about their abuse and only seven percent had discussed their abuse with a doctor.
  • One in five high school girls surveyed reported some physical or sexual abuse. Fifty-three percent of the abuse occurred at home, and 65 percent of the girls said it happened more than once. Twenty-nine percent of girls who had been physically or sexually abused had not told anyone about the abuse. Forty-six percent had symptoms of depression, which is more than twice the normal rate for girls. Abused girls are also at double the risk for signs of eating disorders.

Warning Signs of Being in Danger

  • Someone follows you home.
  • You are home alone when the phone rings, and someone says things that scare you.
  • You are home alone when a stranger comes to the door and tries to come inside.
  • Your parent, step-parent, or another adult gets angry and his or her behavior scares you.
  • Your father hits your mother, or your mother hits your father.
  • An adult tries to hurt you.

What You Can Do...

The way to stop abuse is to talk about it. Child abuse is against the law. Even if the abuse only happens once or seems like it is over, it is important to tell someone you trust. Child abusers may tell kids that something bad will happen if they ever tell anyone. If the abuser is a family member, kids may be afraid the family will break apart if they tell the secret. Remember, the way to stop abuse is to tell someone.

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