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Definitions of Abuse


Physical abuse is the deliberate physical injury to a child, or the wilful or neglectful failure to prevent physical injury or suffering.  This may include hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, confinement to a room or cot, or inappropriately giving drugs to control behaviour.


Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in significant harm.  It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate foods, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger, failing to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment, lack of stimulation or lack of supervision.  It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.  


Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.  The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts.  They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at or the production of pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.


Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development.  It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person.  It may involve causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.  Smothering a child’s development through over-protection can also be a form of abuse.  Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of a child, though it may occur alone.  Domestic violence, adult mental health problems and parental substance misuse may expose children to emotional abuse.

Indicators of Physical Abuse

  • Bruises and welts on body, face, upper arm, shoulders and neck, consistent with gripping. Finger tip bruising/finger marks

  • Cuts and abrasions

  • Fractures or sprains, particularly spiral fractures

  • Abdominal injuries

  • Head injuries

  • Burns or scalds, especially cigarette burns or burns caused by lengthy exposure to heat

  • Human bites

  • Swelling and lack of normal use of limbs

  • Untreated injuries

  • Any serious injury with no, inconsistent or conflicting explanation

Behavioural Observations

  • Unusually fearful with adults

  • Unnaturally compliant to parents

  • Refusal to discuss injuries / fear of medical help/ wears cover up clothing

  • Withdrawal from physical contact

  • Aggression toward others                                                                              Top

Indicators of Emotional Abuse 

  • Acceptance of excessive punishment

  • Over reaction to mistakes

  • Continual self deprecation

  • Sudden speech disorders

  • Fear of new situations

  • Behaviour such as rocking, hair twisting and thumb sucking

  • Self mutilation

  • Fear of parents being contacted

  • Extremes of passivity or aggression

  • Drug solvent abuse

  • Running away

  • Compulsive stealing, scavenging

Indicators of Sexual Abuse

  • Damage to genitalia, anus or mouth

  • Sexually transmitted disease

  • Unexpected pregnancy in very young girls

  • Soreness in genital area, anus or mouth

  • Unexplained recurrent urinary tract infections and discharges or abdominal pain

Behavioural observations

  • Sexual knowledge inappropriate for age

  • Sexualised behaviour in young children

  • Sexually provocative behaviour/promiscuity

  • Hinting at sexual activity

  • Inexplicable falling off in sporting performance

  • Sudden apparent changes in personality

  • Lack of concentration, restlessness, and aimlessness

  • Socially withdrawn

  • Overly compliant behaviour

  • Acting out, aggressive behaviour

  • Poor trust in significant adults

  • Regressive behaviour, onset of wetting, by day or night

  • Onset of insecure, clinging behaviour

  • Arriving early at events/clubs/sessions, leaving late, running away from events etc if challenged

  • Suicide attempts, self mutilation, self disgust

  • Eating disorders, hysteria attacks in adolescents

Indicators of Neglect

  • Constant hunger

  • Constant tiredness

  • Frequent lateness or non-attendance

  • Destructive tendencies

  • Low self esteem

  • No social relationships

  • Running away

  • Compulsive stealing or scavenging

Physical observations

  • Poor personal hygiene

  • Poor state of clothing

  • Emaciation, pot belly, short stature

  • Poor skin tone and hair tone

  • Untreated medical problems

Indicators of Bullying
  • Almost all bullying takes place away from home

  • It most frequently takes place in unsupervised areas e.g. changing rooms, at the beginning and end of sporting sessions and unsupervised sporting activity

  • Child(ren) with exceptional or limited sporting ability are more likely to be the subject of bullying as are vulnerable and/or disabled children

  • Bullying can occur between children, but can also occur in staff/coaching relationships with children

  • Bullying undermines self-esteem

  • Children who are subject of bullying might consider running away for fear bullying would never stop

  • Bullying is usually perpetrated by older children and by adults whom are regarded as having power and authority over children                                                         Top


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Last modified: Thursday October 21, 2020.