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Abuse is the misuse of power and exercise of control by one person over another in a close relationship. Each week at least one child dies as a result of child abuse, in the majority of cases, abuse is committed by a person known and trusted by the child.

There are many different forms of abuse each with signs and indicators that a child or young person is suffering or at risk from abuse. Child abuse occurs when a person in a position of trust and/or authority misuses this power over a child and causes him or her emotional and/or physical harm. A definition National Commission of Enquiry to Prevention of Child Abuse (Department of Health 1966) defines child abuse as;

“Anything which individuals, institutions or processes do, or fail to do, which directly or indirectly harms children or damages their prospects of safe and healthy development into adulthood”

All cases of Child abuse generally falls into four legal categories of abuse these are physical, emotional, neglect and sexual.

Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm or failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting, by those known to them or more rarely, by a stranger.

They may be abused by an adult/adults or another child or children. Abuses can include but are not limited to the following; a family member, family friend, a professional, another child, an internet friend, a stranger or by an institution, such as a school or hospital.

Let’s look at the features of abuse, there are many features these include but are not limited to;

•  Age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed beyond a child’s development capacity
•  Over Protection
•  Limitation of exploration and learning
•  Preventing a child from participating in normal social interaction
•  Seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another
•  Serious bullying causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger
•  The exploitation or corruption of children.

Indicators of Abuse include four main factors which can be categorised into the following;

•  Physical indicators – Such as things that can be seen from the child’s appearance
•  Behavioural indicators – What the child does
•  Social and family indicators – Sources of stress
•  Parental indicators – The response is given when concerns are raised

We must also consider that additional/different indicators can be applicable when it comes to disabled children;

• Forced feeding
• Unjustified or excessive physical restraint
• Rough handling
• Extreme behaviour modification
• Deprivation of liquid, medication, food or clothing
• Misuse of medication, sedation, tranquillisation

For all children there are a number of symptoms of abuse, these can often be linked to abuse. A number of symptoms can often present in multiples, any of these symptoms should be taken seriously and an investigation is required into the cause of these. These symptoms include but are not limited to;

• Stress
• Behaviour changes
• Inappropriate play
• Self-destructive behaviour
• Eating or sleeping problems
• Pseudo-mature
• Depression and/or appearing withdrawn
• Problems at school

Research shows that child protection commonly fails due to child abuse not being recognised or where there is a breakdown in communication channels or where policies and procedures are not followed. We will begin this training by looking at the types of abuse and start to recognise the symptoms children can present.