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Child Abuse 101

Child abuse is the physical, sexual, or psychological mistreatment of a child by a parent or other caregiver. It may include any act or failure to act by a parent or other caregiver that results in actual or potential harm to a child. Child Abuse can be an intentional act which harms which results in harm to the child.  It can also be an unintentional act in not meeting or responding to basic needs

There are four common types of abuse:

Emotional Abuse

  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
  • Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive)
  • Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver
  • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantruming)

Physical Abuse

  • Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts
  • Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen
  • Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days


  • Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather
  • Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor)
  • Untreated illnesses and physical injuries
  • Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments
  • Is frequently late or missing from school

Sexual Abuse

  • Trouble walking or sitting
  • Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to their age, or even seductive behavior
  • Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities
  • An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14
  • Runs away from home

Facts about Child Abuse:

  • A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds
  • Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protective agencies in this country
  • 5 or more children die every day from some form of maltreatment
  • Studies indicate 80% of young adults who had been abused develop at least one psychiatric disorder by age 21
  • Children who experience abuse or neglect are at increased risk for:
    • Criminal activity
    • High risk sexual behavior
    • Alcohol or substance abuse
    • Low academic achievement
    • Difficulty in maintaining healthy relationship
  • Approximately 1/3 of children who have been abused will become abusive to their own children


MYTH: It's only abuse if it's violent.

Fact: Physical abuse is just one type of child abuse. Neglect and emotional abuse can be just as damaging, and since they are more subtle, others are less likely to intervene.

MYTH: Only bad people abuse their children.

Fact: While it's easy to say that only "bad people" abuse their children, it's not always so black and white. Not all abusers are intentionally harming their children. Many have been victims of abuse themselves, and don’t know any other way to parent. Others may be struggling with mental health issues or a substance abuse problem.

MYTH: Child abuse doesn't happen in “good” families.

Fact: Child abuse doesn't only happen in poor families or bad neighborhoods. It crosses all racial, economic, and cultural lines. Sometimes, families who seem to have it all from the outside are hiding a different story behind closed doors.

MYTH: Most child abusers are strangers.

Fact: While abuse by strangers does happen, most abusers are family members or others close to the family.

MYTH: Abused children always grow up to be abusers.

Fact: It is true that abused children are more likely to repeat the cycle as adults, unconsciously repeating what they experienced as children. On the other hand, many adult survivors of child abuse have a strong motivation to protect their children against what they went through and become excellent parents.

Child abuse is a crime. Here is the definition of abuse in the State of Ohio:

Physical Abuse

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 2151.031; 2919.22

‘Abused child’ includes any child who:

  • Is endangered as defined § 2919.22
  • Exhibits evidence of any physical or mental injury or death, inflicted by other than accidental means, that is at variance with the history given of it.
  • Suffers physical or mental injury that harms or threatens to harm the child’s health or welfare because of the acts of his or her parent, guardian, or custodian
  • Is subjected to out-of-home-care child abuse

‘Endangering children’ includes any of the following acts committed against a child under age 18 or a mentally or physically handicapped child under age 21:

  • Abuse, torture, or cruel abuse
  • Corporal punishment, other physical disciplinary measure, or physical restraint in a cruel manner or for a prolonged period that creates a substantial risk of serious physical harm to the child
  • Repeated and unwarranted disciplinary measures that, if continued, create a substantial risk of serious impairment of the child’s mental health or development
  • Allowing the child to be on the same parcel of real property and within 100 feet of, or, in the case of more than one housing unit on the same parcel of real property, in the same housing unit and within 100 feet of, the illegal manufacture of drugs, cultivation of marijuana, or possession of chemicals for the illegal manufacture, when the person knows that the act is occurring, whether or not any person is prosecuted for or convicted of the violation


Citation: Rev. Stat. § 2151.03(A)
‘Neglected child’ includes any child:

  • Who lacks proper parental care because of the faults or habits of the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian
  • Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical or surgical care or treatment, or other care necessary for the child’s health, morals, or well-being
  • Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide the special care made necessary by the child’s mental condition
  • Whose parents, legal guardian, or custodian have placed or attempted to place the child in violation of statutes regarding the placement and adoption of children
  • Who, because of the omission of the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian, suffers physical or mental injury that harms or threatens to harm the child’s health or welfare
  • Who is subjected to child neglect in out-of-home care

Sexual Abuse/Exploitation

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 2151.031; 2907.01; 2919.22

The term ‘abused child’ includes a child who is the victim of sexual activity when such activity would constitute an offense, except that the court need not find that any person has been convicted of the offense in order to find that the child is an abused child. Sexual activity means sexual conduct or sexual contact or both.

‘Sexual conduct’ means vaginal intercourse between a male and female; anal intercourse, fellatio, and cunnilingus between persons regardless of sex; and, without privilege to do so, the insertion, however slight, of any part of the body of any instrument, apparatus, or other object into the vaginal or anal opening of another. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete vaginal or anal intercourse.
‘Sexual contact’ means any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation, the thigh, genitals, buttocks, pubic region, and if the person is a female, a breast, for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person. A person commits the crime of ‘endangering children’ when the person does any of the following to a child: Entice, coerce, permit, encourage, compel, hire, employ, use, or allow the child to act, model, or in any other way participate in, or be photographed for, the production, presentation, dissemination, or advertisement of any material or performance that the offender knows or reasonably should know is obscene, sexually oriented, or nudity-oriented matter.

Emotional Abuse

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 2151.011
‘Mental injury’ means any behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorder in a child caused by an act or omission that is described in § 2919.22 and is committed by a parent or other person who is responsible for the child’s care.


Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 2151.03(A); 2151.011
The term ‘neglected child’ includes a child who is abandoned by his or her parents, guardian, or custodian.
A child shall be presumed abandoned when his or her parents have failed to visit or maintain contact with him or her for more than 90 days, regardless of whether the parents resume contact with the child after that period of 90 days.

Child Welfare Information Gateway
From "Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing and Preventing Child Abuse"


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