Child abuse is anything that endangers the development, security or survival of a child.
(Adapted from Prevent Child Abuse, Office for the Prevention of Family Violence, Alberta Children’s Services)
Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act and Canada’s Criminal Code set out in legal terms what behaviours and conditions might be so harmful that it is necessary to stop them. The following are the main kinds of abuse.
Physical Abuse is the intentional use of force on any part of a child’s body that results in serious injuries. It may be a single incident or a series or pattern of incidents. The Criminal Code says that physical force cannot be used on children unless the force used is “reasonable” and used for “corrective purposes” by a parent or someone acting in the role of a parent.
Emotional abuse is anything that causes serious mental or emotional harm to a child. Emotional abuse may take the form of verbal attacks on a child’s sense of self, repeated humiliation or rejection. Exposure to violence or severe conflict in the home, forced isolation, restraint or causing a child to be afraid much of the time may also cause emotional harm. Emotional abuse rarely happens only once.
Sexual abuse is the improper exposure of a child to sexual contact, activity or behaviour. It includes any sexual touching, intercourse or exploitation by anyone in whose care the child has been left or who takes advantage of a child. Such a person could be a parent, a relative, a friend or a stranger. Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal offense.
Neglect is any lack of care that causes serious harm to a child’s development or endangers the child in any way. Physical neglect is the failure to meet the child’s physical needs. This includes failing to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter, health care and protection from harm. Emotional neglect is the failure to meet the child’s emotional needs for affection and a sense of belonging.