Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, or a combination of any or all of these. Abuse can also be neglect, which is when parents or guardians don’t take care of the basic needs of the children who depend on them.
Physical abuse is often the most easily recognized form of abuse. Physical abuse can be any kind of hitting, shaking, burning, pinching, biting, choking, throwing, beating, and other actions that cause physical injury, leave marks, or cause pain.
Sexual abuse is any type of sexual contact between an adult and anyone younger than 18; between a significantly older child and a younger child; or if one person overpowers another, regardless of age. If a family member sexually abuses another family member, this is called incest.
Emotional abuse can be the most difficult to identify because there are usually no outward signs of the abuse. Emotional abuse happens when yelling and anger go too far or when parents constantly criticize, threaten, or dismiss kids or teens until their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth are damaged. Emotional abuse can hurt and cause damage just as physical abuse does.
Neglect is difficult to identify and define. Neglect occurs when a child or teen doesn’t have adequate food, housing, clothes, medical care, or supervision. Emotional neglect happens when a parent doesn’t provide enough emotional support or deliberately and consistently pays very little or no attention to a child. This doesn’t mean that a parent doesn’t give a kid something he or she wants, like a new computer or a cell phone, but refers to more basic needs like food, shelter, and love.
Abuse can also take the form of hate crimes directed at people just because of their race, religion, abilities, gender, or sexual orientation.