What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse refers to any form of physical, psychological, social, emotional or sexual maltreatment of a child whereby the survival, safety, self-esteem, growth and development of the child are endangered. There are four main types of child abuse: neglect, emotional, physical and sexual.

Types of Child Abuse


Neglect is when a parent/caregiver does not provide for the basic emotional and physical needs of the child on an ongoing basis. Examples of neglect include not providing the proper:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Supervision
  • Safe surroundings
  • Personal health care
  • Medical and emotional care
  • Education

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse includes anything a parent/caregiver does that results in physical harm to a child. Physical abuse may happen if a child is punished harshly, even though the parent/caregiver may not have meant to hurt the child. Examples of physical abuse include:

  • Bruises
  • Marks in the shape of objects or hand prints
  • Shaking
  • Burns
  • Human bite marks
  • Fractures of the skull, arms, legs and ribs

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is when a parent/caregiver who continually uses any of the following when interacting or disciplining a child is emotionally abusing the child.

  • Rejecting
  • Criticizing
  • Insulting
  • Humiliating
  • Isolating
  • Terrorizing
  • Corrupting
  • Not responding emotionally
  • Punishing a child for exploring the environment

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when a person uses power over a child, and involves the child in any sexual act. This abuser is more powerful because of age, intelligence, physical strength, control over the child, and the child’s need to be taken care of by others. The offender gets the child to participate by using threats, bribes, lying and takin advantage of the of the child’s trust. Sexual abuse includes involving the child in acts such as:

  • Fondling(touching the child in a sexual way)
  • Getting the child to touch the abuser inappropriately
  • Oral sex
  • Inserting fingers, penis, or objects in the vagina or anus
  • Exposing oneself
  • Forcing  a child to watch pornography
  • Involving a child in pornography or prostitution
  • Sexual exploitation over the internet

When Child Abuse is suspected

If you suspect child abuse, do not try to prove it or force a child to answer your questions, but immediately contact Children’s Aid Society (CAS).
The investigation of abuse will be conducted by a professionally trained CAS worker.

When a child discloses abuse

Emotion Regulation

Stay calm even when you feel shocked or confused from the disclosure of abuse.

Support and Comfort

You can support by saying the following:

  • “Thank you for your courage to tell me.”
  • “I am sorry this happened.”
  • “There are people who can help us.”
  • “It’s okay to tell the truth. No one will scold or hurt you.”
  • “I will protect and support you by your side.”

Do Not Say:

  • “Are you sure you’re telling me the truth?”
  • ” there must be misunderstanding.”
  • “Why didn’t you do anything?”
  • “Why are you telling me this now?”
  • “How can you say that about him/her?”
  • Use age-appropriate language and do not use stimulating adult terms such as abuse, rape, sexual harassment, or prison


  • Do not make promises that you can’t keep (e.g. “I’ll keep it a secret”)
  • Teach them that in order to be protected from those who hurt them, sometimes secrets must be disclosed, but only to those who are helping them
  • If you are unsure about the question your child is asking, be honest and tell him/her you are not sure
  • Do not tell your child that he/she needs to keep what you’ve told them as a secret

Reporting Suspicious of Child Abuse

  • Children’s Aid Society of Toronto
  • Catholic Children’s Aid Society

  • Jewish Family and Child Service
  • Naitve Child and Family Services of Toronto

Useful Websites

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