Child abuse refers to physical, emotional, sexual, or neglectful maltreatment of a child. If a child witnesses violence, it is considered a form of child abuse.
One myth about child abuse is that it is often perpetrated by strangers, resulting in education focused on stranger danger. While this can be the case, it is more likely that a child will be abused by the people that he knows. This can include family, family friends, and other trusted adults in the child’s life.
Physical: Physical abuse refers to using physical aggression against/toward a child. Physical abuse may result in physical injuries, such as bruising or broken bones. Some examples of physical abuse include slapping, biting, burning, punching, pushing, throwing, and grabbing. Abusive Head Trauma, previously called Shaken Baby Syndrome, is a form of physical abuse.
Emotional: Emotional abuse refers to words, attitudes, or behaviours that demean a child or otherwise hurt a child’s mental health. Some examples of emotional abuse include belittling, humiliation, and extreme punishments.
Sexual: Sexual abuse is any kind of sexual activity between an adult and a child. Sexual activity does not have to include penetration or intercourse to be abusive. Some examples of sexual abuse include sexualized touching and kissing, forced sexual acts, exposing sexual body parts to a child, exposing children to adult sex (watching sex or pornography), making child pornography, and sex trafficking.
Neglect: Neglect refers to not meeting a child’s needs. This can include emotional neglect (e.g, not providing love and care), physical neglect (e.g., not providing physical necessities such as clothes and hygiene supplies), educational neglect (e.g., not allowing the child to attend school or get special support as required), and medical neglect (e.g., not providing a child with medical care when needed).
Witnessing Violence: Witnessing violence refers to a child being in the presence of or dealing with the repercussions of domestic violence (intimate partner violence) or extreme marital discord. Witnessing abuse does not mean that the child has to be directly physically harmed by the abuse. He or she can be indirectly harmed, for example, by having to lie about the reason for a parent’s injuries. Witnessing abuse is considered a form of child abuse in Canada.
There are many impacts of child abuse. In addition to any immediate harm, ongoing abuse causes a hyper-stimulation of the child’s stress response system. This hyper-stimulation results in physical, emotional, and behavioural concerns, both in childhood and adulthood. Abuse can also harm the child’s attachment relationships and may make home an unsafe place to be.
The Saskatchewan Child Abuse Protocol states that it is every Saskatchewan citizen’s responsibility to report suspected child abuse to Social Services or the police (local or RCMP). Once a report is made, Child Protective Services, the police, and other specialists will investigate the situation. It is not up to the person reporting to have proof of the abuse.
The Child Abuse Protocol states everyone who suspects child abuse should file a report. It is important not to assume that someone else has already reported the situation. This ensures that reports are made and can add information to a child’s file.