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Laws of Eve | What is child abuse?

Published:Monday | April 1, 2019 | 12:00 AMSherry Ann McGregor - Contributor

Today, the right-thinking members of the Jamaican society know that they must always be on the lookout for children who are at risk of abuse and accept the responsibility to sound alarms so that the relevant authorities can take action to protect children. What may be lacking is sufficient public awareness as to the forms of child abuse and how to detect it.

I recently conducted some research and came across a website ( that explained the four main forms of child abuse as follows:

1. Physical Abuse

Any injury resulting from physical aggression. Even if the injury was not intended, the act is considered physical abuse. The injury from physical child abuse may be the result of:

- Beating, slapping, or hitting.

- Pushing, shaking, kicking, or throwing.

- Pinching, biting, choking, or hair-pulling.

- Burning with cigarettes, scalding water, or other hot objects.

- Severe physical punishment.

2. Sexual Abuse

Any sexual act with a child, including penetration, intercourse, incest, rape, oral sex, and sodomy. Other examples include:

- Fondling: Touching or kissing a child’s genitals, making a child fondle an adult’s genitals.

- Violations of bodily privacy: Forcing a child to undress, spying on a child in the bathroom or bedroom.

- Exposing children to adult sexuality: Performing sexual acts in front of a child, exposing genitals, telling ‘dirty’ stories, showing pornography to a child.

- Commercial exploitation: Sexual exploitation through child prostitution or child pornography.

This activity may take place at one of our facilities, at home, or in any other setting.

Sexual child abusers can be:

- Fathers, mothers, siblings, or other relatives.

- Child-care professionals or babysitters.

- Clergy, teachers, or athletic coaches.

- Foster parents or host families of foreign-exchange students.

- Neighbours or friends.

- Strangers.

3. Emotional Abuse

Any attitude, behaviour, or failure to act that interferes with a child’s mental health or social development. It can range from a simple verbal insult to an extreme form of punishment. Emotional abuse is almost always present when another form of abuse is found.

Other names for emotional abuse are:

- Verbal abuse

- Mental abuse

- Psychological maltreatment or psychological abuse

- Any behaviour that tends to crush a child’s spirit or attacks his/her self-worth through rejection, threats, terrorising, isolating, or belittling.

Emotional child abuse can come from adults or from other children:

- Parents or caregivers

- Teachers or athletic coaches

- Siblings

- Bullies at school or elsewhere

- High-school girls in social cliques.

4. Neglect

A pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic needs. A single act of neglect might not be considered child abuse, but repeated neglect is definitely child abuse. There are three basic types of neglect: physical neglect, educational neglect, and emotional neglect.

Next week, we will explore the signs of the various forms of child abuse.

- Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner, mediator and arbitrator at Nunes Scholefield DeLeon & Co. Please send questions and comments to or