4.1 Defining Abuse

Girl in a green shirt
Photo by Norma Mortenson, Pexels License

According to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (2017), a child is in need of protection that has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed due to something their parent or caregiver has done, for example, a physical hit, or not done, for example, not provided supervision. If the child has suffered harm or is likely to suffer harm, everyone has a responsibility to report this to their local child protection agency, Children’s Aid Society. Professionals with greater knowledge about children and their needs have a legal responsibility to report suspected abuse to their local child protection agency, most often named the Children’s Aid Society.

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is doing something or failing to do something that results in harm to a child or puts a child at risk of harm. Child abuse can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and/or exposure to adult conflict (Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, n.d.).

It can be limited to one physical assault or to a child leaving an injury such as a bruise or welt. It can slowly escalate, increasing to the use of verbal aggression, leaving the child fearful for their safety. It can be a pattern of ongoing tactics to groom a child by building a relationship in order to gain trust and ultimately sexually abuse the child, leaving them ashamed and isolated. The child’s needs may not be met in many ways, such as inadequate or lack of food, poor health, hygiene, lack of supervision, and safety. There are many ways children are abused, leaving them impacted by the abuse and often feeling badly about themselves, afraid of others, with the belief that the world is a dangerous place. Whatever the experience, children are never responsible for the abuse that they have suffered. The responsibility lies with the abuser, who failed the child(ren) on many levels. Children and youth are never responsible for the abuse that is inflicted on them.

The following sections explain the typology of abuse and the signs that a child may be abused in more detail.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Child Maltreatment: An Introductory Guide With Case Studies Copyright © 2023 by Susan Loosley and Jen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book