Child Abuse and Neglect Definitions

Physical Abuse

Physical injury inflicted on a child by other than accidental means.  Physical injury includes, but is not limited to, lacerations, fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, severe or frequent bruising or great bodily harm.


  • Afraid to go home
  • Frightened of parents/caretakers
  • Fearful of other adults
  • Extremes in behavior, very aggressive, withdrawn and shy
  • Other symptoms of emotional damage
  • Bruises, welts on face, neck, chest, back, buttocks
  • Injuries in the shape of an object (cord, belt)
  • Fractures that do not fit the story of how an injury occurred
  • Delay in seeking medical help

Sexual Abuse

Sexual intercourse or sexual touching of a child, sexual exploitation, exposing of genitalia, forced viewing of sexual activity, or permitting, allowing or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution.


  • Poor peer relationships
  • Refusal to participate in physical activity
  • Drastic change in behavior
  • Regressive or childlike behavior that is not age appropriate
  • Overly sexualized behavior
  • Other symptoms of emotional damage
  • Difficulty walking or sitting, frequent urination, pain
  • Stained or bloody underclothing
  • Pain, swelling, itching in genital area

Emotional Damage

Harm to a child’s psychological or intellectual functioning which is exhibited by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or aggression.  Emotional damage may be demonstrated by substantial and observable changes in behavior, emotional response or learning which are incompatible with the child’s age or stage of development.  Emotional damage occurs when a child’s parent, guardian or legal custodian has neglected, refused or been unable for reasons other than poverty to obtain the necessary treatment or to take steps to ameliorate the symptoms.


  • Low self esteem
  • Self-denigration
  • Aggression
  • Withdrawal
  • Severe depression or anxiety


When a parent or caregiver fails, refuses or is unable for reasons other than poverty to provide the necessary care, food, clothing, shelter, medical or dental care which seriously endanger the physical health of the child.


  • Poor hygiene, odor
  • Inappropriately dressed for weather
  • Needs medical or dental care
  • Extreme willingness to please
  • Other symptoms of emotional damage
  • Arrives early and stays late
  • Left alone, unsupervised for a long period of time