Pacific Health – What is Child Abuse and What Should I Do If I Suspect a Child is Being Abused?

What is child abuse?

Child abuse refers to parents or adults or some one else who harm, hurt, and neglect children or young people.

How serious is the problem in New Zealand (NZ)?

Surprisingly, the prevalence of abuse against children and young people does not appear to have changed over time between 1998 and 2009 in New Zealand. Based on a Ministry of Health Report in 1998, about 8 children on average between the ages 0 and 14 years died from injuries inflicted by another family member. In 2009, based on a report produced by the Family Violence Death Review Committee, 12 children were killed directly by members of their own family. On average, 8 children die every year at the hands of family members in NZ. At the time of writing this article, another child was killed. The six month old infant died from severe head injuries meted out by a family member.

There are four types of child abuse

Although physical violence is the most common form of abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and sexual abuse are other forms of violence that can hurt children. Emotional abuse is when a parent or adult puts a child down; makes a child feel like they are worthless; and, acts like they do not care about you or want you. Neglect is when a parent or adult does not look after a child’s basic needs such as provide food, care, love and security. Sexual abuse is when a parent, or another member of the family or someone else touches a child inappropriately or makes a child do sexual things. Physical abuse is when a parent or adult or a sibling threatens to hurt a child or hits and beats a child to inflict an injury.

What could I do if I suspect a child is abused?

In New Zealand, if you think or believe that a child is being abused call the Police Child Abuse Team (CAT) or Child Youth and Family (CYF). These organisations work together to explore the seriousness of the situation and determine the next course of action. People who are concerned that their suspicions may be wrong, need not worry about it, because The Children Young Persons and Their Families Act 1984 protects people who notify concerns of abuse in good faith from civil and criminal proceedings.