Child Abuse & Incest

What are Child Abuse & Incest?

Child abuse (also called child maltreatment) is any physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or other act involving a child with intent to harm the child. Child abuse can take the form of physical abuse, emotional or mental abuse, sexual assault, or neglect. 

Definitions of Child Abuse & Incest

from Child Welfare Information Gateway)

Uploaded Image: /uploads/images/ChildAbuse_WhatWeDo_SadGirl.jpgPhysical abuse:  Any non-accidental physical injury to a child that can include striking, kicking, burning, or biting, or other actions that result in physical harm to a child.

Sexual abuse or exploitation: Any sexual act performed with a child by an adult or older child, with or without force or the threat of force. Child sexual abuse can include touching or non-touching, verbal seduction or abuse, anal or vaginal intercourse, oral sex, manual stimulation, direct or implied threats. Exploitation includes engaging children in prostitution or the production of child pornography.

Incest: Sexual contact or acts between people who are related genetically, by marriage, by living arrangements, or in whom a child perceives a trusting relationship (e.g. parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, step-parents, or foster parents). 

Emotional abuse: Behavior intent on harming the psychological or emotional capacity of a child. Examples include withholding affection, threatening a child, or rejection.

Neglect: Failure to meet a child's basic needs, such housing, food, clothing, education, and medical care to a degree that threatens the child's health, safety, and well-being. Child neglect may or may not involve physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Child Abuse & Incest: Recognize the Signs

In 2008, Safe Horizon conducted a Bystander and Child Abuse Survey that revealed that many individuals lack knowledge about the warning signs of child abuse and are uncertain about how to report it.

Uploaded Image: /uploads/images/ChildAbuse_BrokenGlass.jpgBecoming more aware of child abuse can help save more young lives. To find out if a child you know may be a victim of abuse, ask yourself the following:

  • Does the child have unexplained injuries or when asked to give an explanation, does the explanation seem unconvincing?
  • Has the child's behavior changed in a negative way (more fearful, depressed, anxious)?
  • Is the child reverting to behaviors they had when they were younger (thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark)?
  • Does the child appear to be uncared for (dirty or have body odor; lack appropriate clothing for the weather)?

These are just a few signs. See our 10 Signs of Child Abuse page to learn more.

Do you know a child who is being abused? Go to our Get Help for Child Abuse page for services.

Child Abuse & Incest: Statistics and Facts

  • More than four children die every day in the United States as a result of child abuse and neglect.
  • Over 70% of children who die because of abuse and neglect are younger than three years old.
  • Most child victims of abuse or neglect suffer at the hands of someone they know.

Child abuse and neglect can create a lifetime of harmful effects on its victims. Studies show that child abuse and neglect can negatively impact children's ability to perform well in school, to develop healthy relationships with others, and create social issues with consequences that impact an entire community.

Get more Child Abuse Statistics and Facts here.

What We Do: Safe Horizon's Child Advocacy Centers

Uploaded Image: /uploads/images/ChildAbuse_CAC.jpgSafe Horizon's four Child Advocacy Centers provide assistance to physically and sexually abused children in more than 4,000 cases every year. At our centers, teams of child protection specialists, police detectives, pediatricians, prosecutors, and mental health professionals work together in child-friendly locations to collect evidence, investigate abuse, and provide effective, coordinated services to young victims and their family members. With the right kind of help, children can recover and live happy lives.

Learn about our Child Advocacy Centers.

Child Advocacy Resource and Consultation Center

The New York State Child Advocacy Resource and Consultation Center (NYS CARCC), a program of Safe Horizon, works with the 40 Child Advocacy Center multidisciplinary teams throughout New York State to promote and enhance the coordinated team response to child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse cases. The Center provides technical assistance, information, and referrals and organizes critical trainings for the CAC multidisciplinary teams.

Find out more at

Child Abuse & Incest: What You Can Do

Give the gift of healing to children through our Child Advocacy Centers.

Visit our Additional Resources page for more information about child abuse and neglect.

For more information, please see our Child Abuse page.

* Images used are representations of Safe Horizon's clients.

Safe Horizon's mission is to provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities.
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