Child Abuse

Child Abuse

The World Health Organisation (WHO, 1999) has defined ‘Child Abuse’ as a violation of the basic human rights of a child. It includes all forms of physical, emotional ill treatment, sexual harm, neglect or negligent treatment, commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual harm or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.

Within the above broad definition of Child Abuse and Neglect, five subtypes can be distinguished

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Sexual abuse
  3. Neglect and Negligent treatment
  4. Emotional abuse
  5. Exploitation

1. Physical abuse - of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction, which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power, or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents.

2. Child Sexual abuse - is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared, or that violates the laws of the society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by an activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power; the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of other person. This may include but is not limited to: the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity; the exploitative use of a child in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices; and, the exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

3. Neglect - is the inattention or omission on the part of the caregiver to provide for the development of the child in all spheres: health, education, emotional development, nutrition, shelter and safe living conditions, in the context of resources reasonably available to the family or caretakers and causes, or has a high probability of causing harm to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. This includes the failure to properly supervise and protect children from harm as much as is feasible.

4. Emotional abuse - the failure of a caregiver to provide an appropriate and supportive environment, and includes acts that have an adverse effect on the emotional health and development.

5. Exploitation - refers to commercial or other exploitation of child in work (child labour), or other activities for the benefit of others, such as child trafficking.

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