Child Abuse and Neglect

What is child abuse?

Child abuse commonly occurs within a relationship of trust or responsibility and is an abuse of power or a breach of trust. Abuse can occur in the home, community, or any places or organisations that children are involved with.  Abuse can happen to a child regardless of their age, gender, race or ability. Abusers can be adults (male or female) and other young people and are usually known to and trusted by the child and family. 


Physical Abuse

The intentional use of physical force against a child that results in – or has a high likelihood of resulting in – harm for the child’s health, survival, development or dignity. This includes hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, strangling, scalding, burning, poisoning and suffocating. Most physical violence against children in the home is inflicted with the object of punishing.


Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is where repeated verbal threats, criticism, ridicule, shouting, and lack of love and affection causes a damaging effect on a child or young person’s emotional development.

Emotional abuse includes suggesting or telling children that they are worthless, unloved, inadequate or not valued.  It can happen in the home or at any group or activity that attracts children.  Some level of emotional abuse is involved in every type of abuse of children, including family violence, or it may occur alone.


Sexual Abuse

Involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.

The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).

Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.



Neglect is generally viewed as failing to do the things needed to meet the needs of the child or young person.  This is different to other forms of abuse that are seen as doing something to the child.  Neglect is not doing the things a child or young person needs to stay safe, be healthy and thrive.