What is child abuse?

Child abuse is any form of physical, emotional and/or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that causes injury or emotional damage to a child or youth. The misuse of power and/or a breach of trust are part of all types of child abuse.

Types of child abuse

Emotional abuse is a chronic attack on a child or youth’s self-esteem by a person in a position of trust or authority. Rejecting, degrading, isolating, terrorizing, corrupting, ignoring, and exploiting are all forms of emotional abuse.

Exposure to family violence is when children or youth witness violence being done by one family member to another.

Physical abuse is when a person in a position of trust or authority purposefully injures or threatens to injure a child or youth.

Neglect is the chronic inattention to the basic necessities in life such as:

  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Healthy diet
  • Education
  • Good hygiene
  • Supervision
  • Medical and dental care
  • Adequate rest
  • Safe environment
  • Moral guidance and discipline
  • Exercise
  • Fresh air

Sexual abuse is when a younger or less powerful person is used by an older or more powerful child, youth or adult for sexual gratification. Sexual abuse can be contact or non-contact.


  • Touched in sexual areas (mouth, breasts, buttocks, anus, and genital area)
  • Forced to touch another’s sexual areas
  • Held in a sexual way
  • Anally or vaginally penetrated


  • Shown sexual videos
  • Being flashed/exposed to sexual body parts, in person or through technology
  • Forced to listen to sexual talk
  • Forced to pose for seductive photos
  • Forced to look at sexual body parts of another person

As defined by the Canadian Red Cross