What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is an epidemic that plagues all communities in North Carolina and transcends all demographics. While abuse can take many forms and looks different in each scenario it is generally broken down into four categories, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and Neglect or may be referred to collectively as child maltreatment. North Carolina law defines an abused child as a child who sustains serious injury or the substantial risk of serious injury, serious emotional damage, or exploitation by a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker (North Carolina G.S. 7B-101).
A child is considered abused if his or her parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker does any of the following or allows another person to do so:
- Causes serious physical injury to the child that does not happen by accident
- Creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to the child, other than by accident
- Uses cruel or grossly inappropriate discipline on the child
- Commits sex crimes against the child or permits or encourages the child to commit sex crimes or participate in sex crimes
- Causes serious emotional damage to the child
- Commits a crime of human trafficking, involuntary servitude, or sexual servitude against the child
- Encourages or approves of delinquent behavior that involves immoral acts by the child
There are varying types of child abuse and neglect, each with its own unique characteristics. Children also may experience the co-occurrence of multiple forms of maltreatment, such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as neglect, which together may affect them to a greater extent. While children may experience any type of maltreatment at any age, younger children are more likely than older children to experience neglect and some forms of physical abuse. Older children are more likely to experience sexual abuse, with pre-teens and adolescents being at greatest risk for commercial sexual exploitation. Although abuse and neglect can occur in any type of home, the risk is heightened by poverty, and by high levels of violence and substance abuse.