In Abuse

Types of Abuse

Types of Abuse

There are many forms or types of abuse. Abuse can and does affect the four developmental areas of a child’s life. These developmental areas are: Emotional, Cognitive, Social and Physical Development.

These developmental areas are described as:

“Physical Development is the development of the body structure, muscles, bones, and organ systems. Motor activity is developing at this time, as well. Standing, sitting, walking and running. However, this also includes the sensory components such as speech development, vision, touch, the use of hands and fingers, taste, and smell.

Emotional Development includes personal traits and characteristics: such as their identity, self-esteem, the ability to reciprocate in emotional relationships.

Social Development includes the child’s interactions with other people and the child’s ability to interact in social groups. The moral system (learning right from wrong) begins to develop in the early stages of life.

Cognitive Development is the thinking process. It is sometimes referred to as “intellectual” or “mental” development. Thinking, memory, reasoning and their ability to problem solve.”

*Note: Stages of development do not occur individually, however, together. It is important to remember abuse can interfere with one, or all the above stages of development.

Children are growing and developing at different stages throughout their childhood and adolescents. Recognizing the types of abuse in each of these areas of development and how abuse may affect this growth is important. Knowing the different types of abuse and their definitions can help us in determining if there is abuse present.

Types of Abuse:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Child Neglect
  • Physical Neglect
  • Educational Neglect
  • Emotional Neglect
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse

(New Mexico Children, 2010) Relative, Adoptive, Foster Parent Training (RAFT) define these types of abuse as:

Physical Abuse: is described as infliction of physical injury as a result of hitting or slapping a child, striking a child with a closed fist, stomping or kicking, burning (i.e.; cigarette burns, irons, etc.), SBS (shaking baby syndrome) or otherwise harming a child”. Over-discipline or physical punishment may result in physical abuse.

Child Neglect: is characterized by failure to provide for the child’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional”.

Physical Neglect: includes refusal of, or delay in, seeking health care (refusal to allow the child to receive medical attention (i.e.; insulin, asthma inhalers, etc.); leaving child alone for extended periods of time; removing the child from the home and not allowing them to return.

Educational Neglect: not insuring the child receives an adequate education, missing several mandated school days; allowing a child to stay home to “babysit” siblings or clean house and not attend school; failure to follow IEP (Individualized Education Plan).

Emotional Neglect: includes such actions as marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spouse abuse in the child’s presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child. The assessment of child neglect requires consideration of cultural values and standards of care as well as recognition that the failure to provide the necessities of life may be related to poverty”.

Sexual Abuse: inappropriate touching of the child’s genitals, intercourse with a child, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, prostituting a child, or creating pornographic material. Many experts believe that sexual abuse is the most under-reported form of child maltreatment because of the secrecy or “conspiracy of silence” that so often characterizes these cases.”

Emotional Abuse: (psychological/verbal abuse/mental injury) includes acts or omissions by the parents or other caregivers that have caused, or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. In some cases of emotional abuse, the acts of parents or other caregivers alone, without any harm evident in the child’s behavior or condition, are sufficient to warrant child protective services (CPS) intervention. For example, the parents/caregivers may use extreme or bizarre forms of punishment, such as confinement of a child in a dark closet. Name calling, relentlessly putting a child down, scapegoating are acts which may be hard to prove, therefore, CPS may not be able to assist. Many forms of child maltreatment may occur separately, however, they often occur in combination. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms of abuse are identified” (New Mexico Children, 2010).

Emotional neglect/abuse can include name-calling, and such statements as: “you’re worthless, you will never amount to anything, you can’t do anything right, why were you born, you’re trash, like your mother/father”. Emotional abuse can be a “he said, she said” type of situation and difficult to prove. Emotional abuse/neglect damages a child’s self-esteem and sense of who they are.

*Note: The above definitions were developed by the Southwest Institute for Family & Child Advocacy NMSU (New Mexico State University) School of Social Work in collaboration with the NM-CYFD (Children, Family and Youth Department) Protective Services.

The definitions of the types of abuse may help us to decide if CPS (Child Protective Services) should be notified in the event we see this abuse. Abuse effects the behaviors in children. Some of these behaviors include: “angry outbursts, aggression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide attempts, verbal aggression, mood swings, isolation or withdrawal, physical aggression, regulation of attention (if a child is being abused in the home there is little energy left to focus on school or education, their energy is focused on the abuse), cause-effect thinking, learning disabilities, failure to deal with conflict or failure, sharing or cooperating with others, expressing feelings and affection, and giving and receiving positive and negative feedback” (Springs).

Every child has the right to remain safe, to be protected and nurtured through the most important years of their lives and through every stage of development. If you “suspect” child abuse, it is your responsibility, duty (if you will) as an adult to contact CPS. People find this difficult to do for several reasons.

Some are afraid there may be repercussions to them or their families should they make a report. This can be a difficult decision as no one wants to be attacked for “doing the right thing”. In most situations, you can remain anonymous.

Another reason given for not reporting child abuse may be that you don’t want to become involved. Others may feel it was “none of your business”. However, if we truly contemplate this scenario and you do not help this child, who will? The abuse will continue and these children will continue to suffer at the hands of an adult or caregiver. Children lose control over the harm in which others (caregivers possibly) are inflicting upon them.

Maybe, you’re not sure and don’t want to disrupt a family, after all, you could be mistaken. This too, is okay. An investigation occurs with all reports of child abuse. If the reports are not substantiated and the child is safe, nothing happens. If the case is substantiated, most organizations are required to assist not only the child, but the abuser and their families. Some families may need parenting classes or guidance on discipline.

In many situations, certain types of abuse can occur when there is family stress. Some of these factors may be loss of job, loss of income, divorce, drug abuse, alcohol abuse or possibly a death in the family or loss of a loved one.

There are many resources to assist these families. Every child has the right to remain with their parents and parents have the right to remain with their children. Assistance is out there and available to every family.

Most abused children will experience some form of mental disorder by the age of 21. Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, anger issues (lack of control), or an emotional disorder. Relationships are based on trust, they can be hard to sustain once abuse has occurred. If a child cannot trust their parents or caregivers, the most important people in their lives, the ones who are supposed to love them and nurture them, why in the world would they trust anyone else? As you can see, it would certainly be difficult to trust.

It’s never easy to make the decision to report abuse, many factors come into play here. Although the majority of this article focuses on the abuse of children, please keep in mind, abuse can also be going on with a neighbor, you, a friend or another family member. The same effects occur regardless of the age of the person being abused. The definitions remain the same for any age, gender or sexual orientation. If you suspect abuse, contact your local CPS or even the authorities if necessary. Reporting abuse may bring reprieve to those who feel there is none, or it could save a life. No one should have to suffer abuse…nor does anyone have the right to abuse others.

The repercussions of abuse may last a lifetime!

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