Child abuse

3-minute read Listen

Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation call 000. If you wish to report a child protection matter, contact the department responsible for child protection in your state or territory.

Child abuse is any behaviour that harms or could harm a child or young person, either physically or emotionally. It does not matter whether the behaviour is intentional or unintentional.

There are different types of child abuse, and many children experience more than one type:

  • Physical abuse: using physical force to deliberately hurt a child.
  • Emotional abuse: using inappropriate words or symbolic acts to hurt a child over time. 
  • Neglect: failing to provide the child with conditions needed for their physical and emotional development and wellbeing.
  • Sexual abuse: using a child for sexual gratification.
  • Exposure to family violence: when a child hears or sees a parent or sibling being subjected to any type of abuse, or can see the damage caused to a person or property by a family member’s violent behaviour.

Children are most often abused or neglected by their parents or carers of either sex. Sexual abuse is usually by a man known to the child — a family member, a friend or a member of the school or church community.

Child abuse can affect a child’s physical, psychological, emotional, behavioural and social development through to adulthood.

Recognising the signs of child abuse is important. There may be physical, emotional or behavioural signs such as:

  • broken bones or unexplained bruising, burns or welts
  • not wanting to go home
  • creating stories, poems or artwork about abuse
  • being hungry and begging, stealing or hoarding food

You should report suspected child abuse to the relevant authority in your state or territory, even if you are not certain it’s happening. This is called a notification.

Child protection systems vary depending on which state and territory you live in. This includes definitions of when a child requires protection and when authorities will intervene. 

Some occupations are legally required to report suspected cases of child abuse to government authorities. The laws are different between states and territories but the most common occupations are teachers, doctors, nurses and police.

Getting help

If you have hurt your child, or feel like you might hurt them, call Lifeline on 131 114.

If you are a child, teen or young adult who needs help and support, call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

If you are an adult who experienced abuse as a child, call Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 or visit their website at www.blueknot.org.au/Helpline.

For more information on child abuse visit the Australian Institute of Family Studies website. 

Sources:

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare(Child protection), ReachOut.com(What is child abuse?), Kids Helpline(Homepage), Queensland Government(About child abuse), Australian Institute of Families(Reporting child abuse and neglect: Information for service providers), Blue Knot Foundation(For survivors of childhood trauma and abuse), Australian Institute of Families(What is child abuse and neglect?)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2018

RETRIEVED https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/child-abuse

Advertisements

A final note on looking after yourself

These are just some of the ways you can practice self-care. Taking care of yourself can be done in little ways that do not take much time as well as bigger ways. What is important is that you try and do something when you can that lifts your spirits. You have been through a terrible ordeal and the important thing is that you focus on you and make self-care a priority, because you deserve it!

Keep in mind that it is normal to have bad days. It is normal to have days where you think you can face what has happened, and days when you feel like you cannot get through another moment. Recovery from sexual assault is about helping you to get your life back to a place where you feel like you are in control. Beginning to do some self-care is a good place to start, even if it means that you do only one thing for a few minutes and build on it on the good days.

 Thankfully, I’ve kept one of the booklets I was given yrs ago. Now that I’ve had a chance to focus on particular items, I went straight to a section that is meaningful for CSA Survivours. Now is the time, that I can start looking after myself. Getting to this stage could still be hard for other Survivours & RCbbc Blog still has copies of Living Well’s Booklets, whose Downloads are at https://www.livingwell.org.au/get-support/living-well-app/.