United We Care | A Super App for Mental Wellness

The Sick Truth About Child Abuse

April 2, 2023

5 min read

Avatar photo
Author : United We Care


Childhood is a time of ease and fun, and at the same time, it is also a time of significant development. Your relationships, worldview, and childhood experiences stay with you for a lifetime, affecting and shaping the rest of your life.[1] While happy relationships and experiences can affect a child positively, negative experiences can taint their emotional health. Abuse as a child is one such experience that can leave a lifelong impact.

What is child abuse?

[2] According to the American Psychological Association, child abuse implies mistreating, neglecting, harming, or using violence against a child. Child abuse is the intentional mistreatment of a child under 18. Most child abuse occurs at the hands of adults or caregivers close to or known to the children. According to the WHO, 1 billion children experience some form of violence every year. That is half of the total population of children worldwide. [3] In the United States, there is a report of child abuse every 10 seconds. 4.3 million child referrals are made every year for child abuse. Certain risk factors such as poverty, special needs, anger issues, mental health conditions, and addictions can make a child more likely to be abused.

Types of child abuse

Various forms of child abuse can hurt the child either physically or emotionally:

  1. Physical abuse: Physical abuse includes hitting a child by hand or with an object. It can also include biting, physically restraining the child, physically forcing the child, or intentional burns. Physical abuse is a leading cause of child deaths and is the primary form of abuse. Children fall prey to physical abuse easily. School can be where children are drawn towards forced drug consumption leading to psychological and emotional abuse.
  2. Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse starts with neglect. Neglect is a covert form of child abuse. Not loving, supporting, or fulfilling a child’s basic needs is neglect and emotional abuse. It can make the child feel lost, lonely, and powerless. When adults do not fulfil the fundamental needs of children, it can also count as financial abuse. Harsh punishments to discipline the child can scare the child and are also a form of child abuse.

Emotional abuse can be in the form of:

  • Scolding,
  • Insults,
  • Verbal threats,
  • Manipulation,
  • Rejection,
  • Harsh criticism, or
  • Being emotionally distant.
  1. Sexual abuse: When an adult gains sexual pleasure from a child, it amounts to sexual abuse of the child. With the technology boom, there is a greater chance of online sexual abuse of children. It involves sending naked images to minors, asking or threatening children into sending their nude photographs, sending sexual messages to them, or circulating altered images of children online. Even if the adult does not engage in sexual abuse, exploiting children for commercial sexual activities is equally a form of sexual abuse. It consists of the following:

    1. Inappropriate touching,

    2. Watching or forcing the child to undress,

    3. Oral sexual contact,

    4. Genital sexual contact, or

    5. Taking indecent photographs of them.

Signs of child abuse

Some telltale physical signs of child abuse are:

  • Physical injuries,
  • Burn marks,
  • Bruises

The physiological signs of child abuse are:

  • Unexplained vomiting,
  • Unexplained aches and pains,
  • Malnutrition,
  • Involuntary urination or defecation,
  • Poor hygiene

Some emotional signs of child abuse are:

  • Fear of authority or adults,
  • Poor academic performance,
  • Social withdrawal,
  • Nightmares,
  • Delinquent behaviours, or
  • Frequent absences from school.

There might be more indicators of child abuse that can vary from child to child. Any sudden changes in behaviour or appearance for worse can be alarming. Children might not understand the situation or be able to talk about it, so it is essential to pay attention to any changes. Teachers, neighbours, relatives, or even peers can recognize these changes in children.

Long-term effects of child abuse

Often abuse is presented as tough love, but it severely affects children. Some long-term effects of abuse are as follows:

  1. Physical impairment,
  2. Stunted emotional, mental, or social growth(3),
  3. Anxiety,
  4. Depression,
  5. Post-traumatic stress disorder,
  6. Developing high-risk sexual behaviour,
  7. Starting alcohol or drug abuse,
  8. Low self-esteem,
  9. Aggressive outbursts,
  10. Partial amnesia about the abuse,
  11. Becoming emotionally distant,
  12. Unable to form healthy relationships as an adult.

An abused child gets stuck in a cycle of generational abuse and is more likely to use it as an adult. Child abuse can harm a child’s sense of self, lower self-confidence, make the child feel isolated, and give rise to mental health disorders. Even if the abuse is not physical, it can be an emotionally scarring experience for the child.

How to get help as a victim of child abuse

Getting help as a victim of child abuse is difficult. Children are sometimes scared to speak up or do not know whom to talk to. They often do not even know that they are experiencing abuse. Even minors can be victims of abuse. In such cases, if you are a child experiencing abuse, telling an adult you trust, like a relative, teacher, or friend’s parent, is always a good idea. National Child Helplines are available to call and talk to for help.


Adults, especially parents, often abuse a child when they do not know how to nurture children healthily. Adults sometimes use children because it makes them feel more in control. However, it is essential to stop child abuse and prevent it. Parents need to plan and prepare for the child’s upbringing before birth, and they should resolve their childhood trauma and seek information on healthy parenting styles. They use the national child helpline. If a child has suffered abuse, it is essential to get a medical examination, and it is also important to reach out to a mental health professional. United We Care is one such organization that helps victims of child abuse cope with their experiences. We also help parents and adults stop the child abuse cycle and develop healthy parenting skills.


  1. A. Hattery, The Social Dynamics of Family Violence. Routledge, 2018.
  2. Government of Netherlands, “What Is Child abuse?,” Government.nl, 2010. https://www.government.nl/topics/child-abuse/what-is-child-abuse
  3. ‘Child protection’. [Online]. Available: https://www.unicef.org/child-protection. [Accessed: 02-Mar-2023].

Unlock Exclusive Benefits with Subscription

  • Check icon
    Premium Resources
  • Check icon
    Thriving Community
  • Check icon
    Unlimited Access
  • Check icon
    Personalised Support
Avatar photo

Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

Scroll to Top

United We Care Business Support

Thank you for your interest in connecting with United We Care, your partner in promoting mental health and well-being in the workplace.

“Corporations has seen a 20% increase in employee well-being and productivity since partnering with United We Care”

Your privacy is our priority