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Definitions of abuse

1 May 2018

Child abuse is when anyone under 18 is harmed or neglected. There are four main types of abuse:

Physical abuse

This is when someone physically hurts a child or young person on purpose. Physical abuse can include
  • hitting
  • shaking
  • poisoning
  • burning
  • drowning
  • suffocating
  • making a child ill.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when a child or young person is told, asked or forced to take part in sexual activity. The ways in which a young person can be sexually abused include:
  • making them do sexual things either to themselves or with other people
  • involving them in the making of films or taking photos that involve sexual activity
  • making them watch sexual behaviour.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse can damage self-esteem and severely affect friendships, school and home life. Examples of emotional abuse include:
  • being made to feel worthless, wrong or unhappy
  • being unfairly blamed
  • being bullied
  • being made to feel frightened or in danger
  • seeing or hearing domestic violence within the home.


Neglect is when a child or young person is not properly looked after. This could damage their health or wellbeing. A child's basic needs include
  • food and shelter
  • safety within the home
  • proper clothing
  • good cleanliness
  • warmth
  • receiving necessary medical treatment
  • protection from physical and emotional harm or danger.