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What is Child Abuse?

Being mistreated or abused (sometimes called significant harm) is often put into four groups.

Physical abuse

Sometimes you might be physically hurt by an adult (like being beaten, punched, kicked, slapped, scalded with hot water or punished in other ways that cause physical harm). And, if it wasn’t an accident that can only mean that you are being abused. Child abuse means that a person is deliberately being cruel or violent towards you.

Emotional Abuse

Sometimes adults may persistently say or do cruel things intended to upset you (like putting you down all the time or making you feel worthless; or left out). Or you might see or hear the ill-treatment of others. This could leave you feeling very unhappy and not cared for, this is emotional abuse.

Sexual Abuse

Sometimes someone might touch you in ways you do not like. No one has the right to touch you in a bad way; or force you to touch them or other people. Some adults do some very bad things to children like trying to use them for sex. These people are sometimes called “paedophiles”. You should always tell someone if another person is trying to get you involved in anything of a sexual nature. This might also include things which do not involve touching (like involving you in looking at or making sexual images, watching sexual activity or encouraging you to act in sexually inappropriate ways. Sexual abuse is not just done by adult males. Women can also carry out sexual abuse, as can other children.


When people talk about neglect they mean when a child is not getting the things they need – like somewhere safe and warm to live; somewhere to learn and develop; somewhere you will be cared for when you are not feeling well; somewhere you will get enough to eat; somewhere you will be properly looked after; and, not be ignored. Neglect often happens when children are left to care for themselves or care for others such as brothers and sisters all the time.

If you feel that you are being abused, tell someone you trust.

This could be a friend, relative, teacher, etc. It is not easy to do this and you might feel embarrassed or scared, or worried that you or someone else might get into trouble. But remember that it is always right to tell someone if you are being abused.

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