What is Child Abuse?
Child Abuse is the physical, sexual, or emotional maltreatment or neglect of individuals under the age of 18.
Physical Child Abuse includes, but is not limited to:
- Beating, slapping or hitting
- Pushing, shaking, kicking or throwing
- Pinching, biting, choking or hair-pulling
- Severe physical punishment
Physical Punishment versus Physical Abuse
Physical punishment is the use of physical force with the intent of inflicting bodily pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control. Physical punishment can easily get out of control and become child abuse.
Emotional Child Abuse
Emotional child abuse is any attitude, behavior or failure to act that interferes with a child’s wellbeing. It can range from a single verbal insult to extreme verbal belittlement.
- Lack of affection
- Exposure to violence (including the physical abuse of others)
Neglect is a very common type of child abuse and is a pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic needs. Three major types of neglect and highlighted below:
Failure to provide food, weather appropriate clothing, supervision, a safe place and/or medical care.
Failure to enroll a school aged child in school or to provide necessary special education. This includes allowing excessive absences from school.
Failure to provide emotional support, love and affection. This includes neglect of a child’s emotional needs and failure to provide psychological care, as needed.
Child Sexual Abuse
If you fear a child you know is in danger, call 911 immediately.
If you suspect child abuse, consider calling your local Social Services agency to file a report. The Social Services hotline number within Virginia is 800.552.7096 and 804.786.8536 outside the state.
As always, feel free to contact the Women’s Resource Center at 540.639.1123 for further support.
Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
Children exposed to domestic violence experience the effects in a variety of ways. They may be directly exposed to the abuser’s violent behavior by witnessing the physical abuse of a parent. They themselves may experience physical, emotional, verbal and/or sexual abuse of a parent. They may be indirectly exposed by overhearing the abuse, the police being called, or noticing bruises after the abuse has occurred.
Depending on their age and stage of development, children respond to the trauma of domestic violence in a variety of ways.
- Experience confusion about what is happening and their ability to keep themselves safe.
- Experience confusion about parents’ ability to care for them and keep them safe.
- Experience anxiety stemming from the unpredictability of the abuser’s moods, and what will happen next.
- Try to protect the abused parent which may lead to their own injuries
- Feel guilty about the abuse because they don’t know how to stop it and they may believe the abuse is their fault.
- Side with the abuser and even participate in the abuse in order to feel safe, because from their perspective, the abuser has the power in the family.
- Experience difficulty focusing and acting out behaviors at school.
- Engage in self-harming behaviors and experiment with drugs or alcohol to numb their feelings.
Responding to a child who has been exposed to domestic violence:
- Tell the child it is not their fault.
- Do not put down the abuser since children often love the abuser.
- Help the child plan for safety when the fighting starts: don’t try to stop it, go to a safe place, and stay out of the fight (see Safety Plan attached below).
- Remind them that their only job is to keep themselves safe.
- Help them identify safe people in their life they can call or talk to. A teacher, the other parent, a caregiver, or a counselor will know what to do to help keep the child safe.
My Safety Plan
Every family has trouble getting along now and then. It is okay for people in a family to get upset with each other. But, it is NEVER okay for people in a family to abuse each other. When grownups in your family hit, kick, slap, push, or throw objects at someone else in your family, it is abuse.
Abuse can also happen when family members are put down or touched in wrong ways. Families should not have to live with abuse and violence. If your family has trouble like this, you are not alone. Please tell a safe adult about what is going on. It is also a good idea to have a safety plan to help you know what to do next time someone in your family is being hurt.
When the fighting starts:
- Do not try to stop it. It is not safe for me to stop the abuse. It is my job to help keep myself safe and stay out of the fight. What can I do to be safe?
- Stay away from the fight. The following places in my home are safe places to hide.
- Get to a safe place. If I am not able to get to a safe place in my home, I will go to a neighbor’s or relative’s house that is safe. Where can I go to be safe?
- This is the safest way for me to get out of my home during violence.
- If I need help right now, I will try to call 911 from a room away from the fighting or from a safe place outside my home. I will tell the 911 helper:
- My address is
- My name is
- I need help! Someone is hurting my
- My phone number is
The 911 helper will stay on the phone and talk with you until the police arrive.
- These are safe grown-up people I can talk to about my problem.
- You did nothing wrong.
- It is not your fault when adults argue or fight.
- It is okay to get help when you are afraid.
- It is okay to love both your parents, even if one parent is hurting the other.
- But it is never okay for that parent to hurt you, your parent, or anyone else.
Numbers to call:
Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley: 540.639.1123 or 1.800.639.1123
Youth Crisis and Runaway Hotline: 800.786.2929
DSS Child abuse Hotline: 800.552.7096