What Does Child Abuse Exactly Mean?

Most people are familiar with the term child abuse. Normally, when we think of abuse, we think of a child being harshly beaten by a parent or adult. But the law recognizes many forms of child abuse. The following information may be useful if you are asking the question: what does child abuse exactly mean?

The legal definition of abuse may change from state to state, but there are certain overriding principles which acknowledge that any person, including a child, has certain human rights, and to deprive them of those rights is to abuse them. Here are some broad concepts for abuse:

1. Physical

The most common form of abuse is physical abuse. This is abuse that goes beyond a mere spanking and may involve slapping, punching, kicking or attempting to discipline a child with an object, such as a stick or pipe. While many states do not outlaw a parent from physically disciplining their child, they do recognize certain acts as assault or battery. In most states, public schools are not permitted to enforce physical discipline.

2. Emotional & Psychological

Emotional and psychological abuse is less well-recognized yet can be equally as harmful to a child. Name-calling, brow-beating and shouting at a child can leave emotional scars for many years to come that may be difficult for the child to move past and form healthy relationships in adulthood.

3. Neglect

Many people are unaware that neglecting a child is a form of abuse. Yet, legally, a child has a right to be taken care of properly by the adults who have custody of him or her. This means tending to the child's needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and education. If a child is not receiving these things, the state will consider the child as being abused and will likely remove them from that environment.Child Abuse photo

If you suspect that a child you know is being abused, speak to someone whom you trust. You can also reach out to their teachers, youth leaders or other close people with your concerns. You can report cases of child abuse anonymously without having to give your name.

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