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    What Constitutes Child Abuse?

    Recognizing Child Abuse

    In simplest terms, abuse is an act of commission.  It represents an action against a child and is generally of three kinds: physical, sexual and emotional.

    Physical abuse - purposeful injury of a child by a parent or caretaker.  This includes beating, burning or punching.

    Signs of physical abuse: unexplained bruises and welts on the face, lips, mouth, torso, back, buttocks or thighs in various stages or healing.  Rectangular patterns reflecting the shape of an article used to inflict a wound (i.e. electric cord, belt buckle) may appear on several different surface areas.

    Cigar or cigarette burns may be visible on palms, soles, back or buttocks.   Rope burns are usually seen on arms, legs, neck or torso.

    Immersion burns are sock-like or glove-like, or doughnut-shaped when appearing on the buttocks or genitalia.  Watch for patterns from electric burners or irons. Infected burns indicate a delay in treatment.

    Behavioral Signs of Physical Abuse

    Children who are abused may be nervous around adults or be afraid of certain grown-ups.
    They may be apprehensive when other children cry.
    Feel deserving of punishment.
    Be tired a lot, or complain of nightmares or not sleeping well.

    Behavioral extremes                                           

    Aggressive or withdrawn.
    Frightened of parents or afraid to go home.
    Vacant or frozen stare.
    Indiscriminately seeks affection.

    Sexual Abuse

    Sexual abuse includes rape, touching/fondling or involving a child in pornography.  The act may be for the gratification of the perpetrator or of a third party.

    Physical indicators of sexual abuse

    Difficulty in walking or sitting.
    Pain, swelling or itching in the genital area.
    Bruises, bleeding or lacerations in external genitalia, vaginal or anal areas.
    Sexual knowledge or behavior beyond what is normal for the child's age.

    Behavioral indicators of sexual abuse

    Unwilling to change for gym or participate in physical education class.
    Bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual behavior or knowledge.
    Poor peer relationships.
    Delinquent or runaway.
    Change in performance in school.

    Emotional Maltreatment

    Emotional abuse is a pattern of destructive interactions between a parent and child resulting in the child's emotional instability.  Emotional maltreatment may involve criticizing, insulting, rejecting or withholding love from a child.  It is the most difficult form of abuse or neglect to define.

    Behavioral indicators of emotional abuse

    Acting overly mature or immature for the child's age.
    Extreme changes in behavior.
    Attempted suicide.
    Delays in physical or emotional development.
    Lack of emotional attachment to a parent.

    Neglect

    While abuse is described as an act of commission, neglect is an act of omission. Neglect (physical, emotional and educational) is the failure to provide basic needs for adequate growth and development.

    For example, leaving a young child home alone or failing to provide needed medical care may be considered physical neglect.

    Physical indicators of neglect                                     

    Chronic uncleanliness.
    Severe or untreated diaper rash.
    Height and weight significantly below age level norms.
    Constant fatigue, listlessness or falling asleep in class.

    Behavioral indicators of neglect

    Delinquency and/or attendance problems.
    Begging for or stealing money or food.
    Says there is no one at home to take care of him or her.

    Educational Neglect

    Educational neglect occurs when a child's parents, guardian or custodian neglects or refuses to provide him/her with proper education necessary for his/her health.

    Dependency

    A dependent child is one:

    1. Who is homeless or destitute without proper care and support, through no fault of his/her caretakers;

    2. Who lacks proper care or support because of the mental or physical condition of his/her caretakers;

    3. Whose condition or environment is such as to warrant the state, in the interests of the child, in assuming his guardianship;

    4. To whom both of the following apply: 

    he/she is living in a household in which a parent, guardian, custodian or other resident has abused or neglected a sibling of the child.

    because of the circumstances surrounding the abuse or neglect of the sibling and the other conditions in the household of the child, the child is in danger of being abused or neglected by that parent, custodian , guardian or member of the household.