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Child abuse may be more common and widespread than people may think. In 2008, there were around one million confirmed incidents of child abuse in the United States. People sometimes don’t realize the wide range of actions that are considered as forms of child abuse. Child abusers are also not always easy to pick out of a crowd; most are normal individuals who fit into society quite easily. Because of all this, it may be hard to recognize or accept that a child is being abused.
What is considered child abuse?
Child abuse is typically divided into four separate categories: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. While all are different, each one can be extremely damaging to the child’s well-being.
- Physical Abuse: This comprises all actions involving touching a child in a manner with the intent the harm him or her. For example, dealing blows to the child’s head or shaking the child in a violent manner both are forms of physical abuse.
- Sexual Abuse: These acts contain elements of both physical and emotional abuse. Sexual abuse can either involve contact between the child and another individual, or it may involve forcing the child to watch sexual acts being performed. With physical sexual abuse, the child may be forced to perform sexual acts alone or with another individual (another child, another adult — not necessarily with the abuser him or herself).
- Emotional Abuse: This category encompasses all non-physical acts that have some sort of emotional or psychological impact on the child, such as verbal abuse. Examples of emotional abuse include directing hurtful words at the child or refusing to feed the child when he or she has does something wrong.
- Neglect: This is the most common form of child abuse. It does not necessarily take a conscious effort on behalf of the abuser for him or her to neglect a child. Neglect includes acts such as failure to provide the child with basic necessities for a healthy life: food, water, shelter, bathing, healthcare, or love.
Obviously, child abuse can come in many different forms. Its effects — both physical and emotional — are long-lasting.
Recognizing an abused child
Abused children often show different symptoms that indicate abuse. Typically, their behavior changes drastically. They might show signs of antisocial behaviors such as acting out more than usual or becoming extremely quiet and aloof. If a child has been physically abused in some form or fashion, then there are normally physical indicators on his or her body, such as bruises, cuts, or soreness.