Types of Abuse

  • Sexual Abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Neglect

There many forms of abuse and a child can experience anywhere from none of them to all of them. 28.3% of all adults report being physically abused as children. 20.7% of all adults report sexual abuse as children. 10.6% of all adults report emotional abuse as children.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse constitutes any action that causes injury, whether it is intentional or not intentional. The line between physical discipline and physical abuse can be difficult to discern but in general, a good rule of thumb is that discipline should not injure or impair a child. Some examples of physical abuse are: kicking, burning, choking, and whipping. A child that has bruises, blisters, burns, broken bones, and similar injuries may be a victim of physical abuse.

Some signs of physically abusive behavior from a caregiver include:

  • Calling the child a liar or evil
  • History of violence and abuse
  • Refusing to or delaying provide medical care for the child
  • Isolating the child
  • Inability or unwillingness to explain their child's injuries

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is when a child's mental and social development is harmed. Emotional abuse can include rejecting or making a child feel unwanted and unloved, humiliating or shaming a child excessively, terrorizing (accusing and blaming a child and threatening them with violence), isolating (preventing a child from engaging in positive activities or even physical spaces), and corrupting a child by forcing them to engage in criminal acts or covering for criminal acts.

Some signs of emotionally abusive behavior from a caregiver include:

  • Routinely ignoring, criticizing and blaming the child
  • Playing extreme favorites between children
  • Poor anger management skills
  • History of violence or abuse
  • General lack of respect for authority and other adults
  • Mental illness, alcoholism, substance abuse

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is when an adult uses a child for sexual purposes, involves a child in sexual acts, or forces a child to witness sexual acts. The acts can range from penetration to child pornography to inappropriate sexual conversation, to non-contact abuse.

Some signs of sexually abusive behavior from a caregiver include:

  • Parent relies excessively on child for emotional support
  • Parent fails to supervise a child
  • Unstable adult supervision
  • History of violence or abuse
  • Jealous/Possessive parent
  • Sexually dysfunctional relationships


Neglect is when a child's parent or caregiver does not give sufficient care, supervision, affection, and support needed for development or safety. Neglect can be physical, emotional, medical, or educational.

Some signs of neglect from a caregiver include:

  • Parent relies excessively on child for emotional support
  • Parent fails to supervise a child
  • General indifference towards the child
  • History of violence or abuse
  • Views child negatively
  • Denies responsibilities and blames child
  • Relies on child to take care of them not the other way around

Erin's Law

Erin's Law requires all public schools to implement educational programs that are child focused and meant to help prevent sexual abuse. Teachers and students must be taught to recognize the signs of abuse and also requires that teachers and school personnel become mandated reporters. The law also provides parents and caretakers with information about warning signs and also resources. In particular, children are taught the difference between good and bad touch as well as when to not keep secrets. Erin's Law has been passed in 35 states and is currently pending in 15 states.

Erin's Law is the brainchild of Erin Merryn, an activist against child sexual abuse. She grew up in Illinois and attended Schaumburg High School then Western Illinois University and Aurora University. She was a victim of sexual abuse for over 4 years, from ages 6-8 by a male neighbor and from ages 11-13 by a teenage cousin. She details in her biography that she thought she was alone. She says "[the abuse] changed me from a strong, resilient, confident child to a very angry, hate-filled, self-destructive child, teenager and young adult." When she disclosed her abuse to her sister, she realized that both of them were victims of the same person. Child abuse hurts everyone and offenders and likely to have more than one victim. Because Erin and her sister came forward with their story, the parents were able to seek counseling and legal action.

You can find out more about Erin's Law and see what you can do to get it passed here: http://www.erinslaw.org/

Abused Children as Adults

Growing up is difficult for victims of abuse. Abused children face strong triggers for memories of what happened to them when they become adults and have their own families. These repressed and often traumatizing memories can be overwhelming but there are strategies to adapt and heal.

You can read more about the adult after effects of abuse here: https://americanspcc.org/child-abuse-effects-child-abuse-neglect-adult-survivors/

Get in Touch with Us

The CAC is available to help local organizations with policy, procedure and training regarding sexual abuse prevention and safety. The center is dedicated to ensuring the proper implementation of mandated reporting requirements in schools, churches and youth sports programs. Contact us today by emailing: CACmail@co.champaign.il.us.