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What Is Child Abuse?

If you would like to discuss or report child abuse, you may call 714-940-1000 or 800-207-4464, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Child Abuse is legally defined as:

  • A physical injury which is inflicted by other than accidental means on a child by another person.
  • Sexual Abuse, including both sexual assault and sexual exploitation
  • Willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment of a child
  • Cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or injury
  • Neglect, including both severe and general neglect

Indicators of Child Abuse

Below are some indicators of child abuse, which can help you recognize an existing or potential problem of abuse.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse may be defined as any act, which results in a non-accidental physical injury.

Indicators of physical abuse:

  • Bruises, burns, abrasions, lacerations, or swelling caused by other than accidental means
  • Belt buckle marks, handprints, bite marks, and pinches
  • Child states injury was caused by abuse
  • Injury unusual for a specific age group
  • A history of previous or recurrent injuries
  • Unexplained injuries; conflicting explanations or reasons for the injury
  • Child excessively passive, compliant or fearful
  • Caretaker attempts to hide injuries


Neglect is the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by a parent or caretaker under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child's health or welfare.

Indicators of neglect:

  • Child lacking adequate medical or dental care
  • Child is always sleepy or hungry
  • Child is always dirty or inadequately dressed for weather conditions
  • There is evidence of poor supervision
  • Conditions in the home are extremely or persistently unsafe or unsanitary

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse is defined as acts of sexual assault on and/or the sexual exploitation of minors.

Indicators of sexual abuse:

  • Child reports sexual activities
  • Detailed and age-inappropriate understanding of sexual behavior (especially by younger children)
  • Child wears torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • Child is victim of other forms of abuse