Child abuse is any mistreatment or neglect of a child that results in non-accidental harm or injury and which cannot be reasonably explained. Child abuse develops gradually over a period of time and will generally be repeated unless it is intercepted. The forms of abuse become more serious as time goes on.
Child abuse may include:
- emotional abuse
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
Most abused and neglected children never come to the attention of child protection agencies. This is particularly true for neglected and sexually abused children, who may have no physical signs of harm. In the case of sexual abuse, secrecy and intense feelings of shame may prevent children, and adults aware of the abuse, from seeking help.
If abuse is suspected in any situation involving children, it is required by law that the information be reported to police and child welfare authorities.