What Is Child Abuse
Child abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual.
All child abuse involves the misuse of power.
Misuse of power takes place when people take advantage of the
authority or power they have over vulnerable people.
Vulnerable people include adults with physical or mental disabilities
and children (a child is a person under age 19).
Physical abuse is the use of physical force or an action
that results, or could result, in injury to a child or youth. It is
more than reasonable discipline. Sometimes injury is caused by
over-discipline. Injuring a child or youth is not acceptable,
regardless of differing cultural standards on discipline.
In 97 per cent of reported cases of physical abuse, parents are the
The perpetrators of physical abuse are approximately 1.5 times more
likely to be male than female (Wolfe).
Over 90 per cent of parents report the use of physical force in the
discipline of their children.
Emotional abuse is a pattern of hurting a child's
feelings to the point of damaging his or her self-respect. It includes
verbal attacks on the child, insults, humiliation and rejection. A
child or youth who is emotionally harmed may demonstrate severe
anxiety, depression, withdrawal and/or self-destructive behavior.
Sexual abuse occurs when an adult or someone more
powerful than a child or youth uses the child or youth for sexual
stimulation or gratification. Sexual activity between children or
youth may also be sexual abuse if older or more powerful children or
youth take sexual advantage of those who are younger or less powerful.
Physical neglect is the failure of caregivers to
provide a child's or youth's basic needs (food, clothing, adequate
shelter, supervision and medical care) to the extent that the child's
or youth's health or safety is threatened.
Physical neglect is often difficult to identify and prove. While there
may be a link between physical neglect and poverty, neglectful
guardians can be found in every level of society. Physical neglect may
not be intentional but rather the result of insufficient resources or
OF CHILD ABUSE
Most abused or neglected children never come to the
attention of authorities. Statistics are therefore not indicative of
actual rates of child abuse or neglect (Hopper, 1997). In Canada,
national statistics on all types of child abuse are not available, and
each province has different methods of reporting child abuse cases.
Statistics on child sexual abuse are more widely reported.
North American statistics indicate that one in six boys are sexually
abused before age 16 (Hopper, 1997). Studies of college males have
reported prevalence rates as high as 28 per cent (Hopper, 1997). For
instance, a study done in Calgary of men aged 18 to 27 revealed a
prevalence rate of 15.5 per cent and that 6.9 per cent of participants
had experienced multiple episodes of sexual abuse.
The prevalence of sexual abuse of girls is significantly higher than
that of boys. Approximately one in three girls are sexually abused
before age 18 and one in four by age 14 (Russell, 1983). A similar
study with women reported a prevalence rate of 32 per cent, though the
multiple episode rate was identical to that of the men studied
WHO ARE THE ABUSERS?
Most people who provide care are loving and skilled;
however, there are some who abuse. A 1996 study of 16 states in the
U.S. indicated that abuse in day care, foster care, or other
institutional care settings represented about two per cent of all
confirmed cases (Wang and Daro, 1997). Abusers look like everyone
else. Except for abusing children, they act like everyone else. That's
why it is difficult for an organization to identify abusers or
Abusers may be parents, relatives, neighbors or
friends. They may also include those who work with children or youth
as staff or volunteers. Strangers, who are often the most feared and
the most publicized, represent only about eight per cent of sexual
abusers. Among child sexual abusers, more than 98 per cent are male.
Studies have found that over half of sexual assaults committed against
children occur in the homes of victims or suspects; however, abusers
also prey on children at schools, health care facilities and
playgrounds. They can also be attracted to employment and volunteer
work where children or youth are present.
Most people who provide care are loving
and skilled; however, there are some who abuse.
What we do know is that abusers can come from any
background, race, religion, culture, age or gender, and any
intelligence, education or income level. They are often emotionally
damaged, and it is common for abusers to have been abused themselves.
Many feel shortchanged, frustrated or powerless and use different
excuses to justify abusing children.
Many child abusers hold positions of trust, are skilled, get good
performance appraisals in their work, and are perceived by others as
being committed to children and families.
Studies indicate that many child sexual abusers abuse children over an
extended period before they are caught and convicted. Many abusers who
live among us as parents, grandparents, volunteers, and leaders in the
community have not been identified or charged with their offences. The
offences for which they are actually convicted may well be only the
tip of the iceberg. In addition, convicted child abusers often commit
child abuse again after they are released from prison.
PREVENTION HELPS EVERYONE
The most important benefit of child abuse prevention
measures is that children are better protected from physical and sexual
But others benefit as well:
- preventive measures can help parents to evaluate
and choose programs and services for their children
- employers with good child abuse prevention policies
may attract highly motivated and dependable employees and volunteers
- criminal record checks may discourage child abusers
from applying for a job
preventive programs can improve the reputation of an organization
- preventive measures can help protect employers,
employees and volunteers against false allegations of child abuse
9. SOME COMMON
MYTHS ABOUT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE MYTHS FACTS
|Child sexual abuse is more common
in cities and occurs rarely in rural areas where people know
||Child abuse takes place equally in
rural and urban areas.
|Child molesters are strangers who
look different and act oddly.
||Most abusers are known to their
victims. Many appear stable and hold responsible positions.
| Child sexual abuse is only
committed by adults.
|| Among males in custody or on
probation for a sexual offence in British Columbia in 1993, one
in six was a youth.
|Children "ask" for these
actions by being "seductive" or by
"consenting" to the sexual acts.
|| Children are never
responsible for being abused; when an adult instigates sexual
contact, informed consent is impossible for a child.
|Alcohol or drugs are usually to
||This frequent defence by child
sexual abusers is rarely the cause. The abuser may use alcohol
and drugs to lower inhibitions.
Child sexual abuse is rare and only involves girls.
|Research suggests that 30 per cent
of girls and 15 per cent of boys are subjected to some form of
sexual abuse by the age of 18.
|Child sexual abusers are all
||Abusers can be homosexual or
|Child sexual abusers are mostly
||Abusers come from all income,
education and intelligence levels
For more, see Information
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