Assignment 17 - Abuse

Knowing the signs, methods, and consequences of various types of abuse can help those in abusive situations recognize their need to get help, while others can use this information to help those in abusive situations seek help. This lesson focuses on identifying various types of abuse, signs of abuse, the impact of abuse, coping skills, protective factors, and choosing to disclose.

Physical Abuse

  • Physical abuse is any act which results in a trauma or injury to any part of a child's body.
  • Examples are: hitting, slapping, kicking, burning, shaking, cutting, use of weapons like sticks or wooden spoons, etc.
  • This may happen once or more than once. Abuse may start out at a low level and eventually increase in severity over time.
  • Some parents or older adults may say that physical abuse is being used as a form of disciple, like spanking a poorly behaved child. Although parents do have the right to discipline their child, they do not have the right to abuse them. The difference between discipline and abuse is that abuse is meant to instill fear and is often more severe than necessary. Discipline is usually tied to a bad behaviour or a consequence, whereas abuse may happen without warning.

Emotional Abuse

  • Emotional abuse is an attack on a child's self-concept or self-worth. It can make you feel stupid, ugly, weak, or just not good enough.
  • Examples are: verbal attacks, threats, unrealistic expectations, being ignored or isolated, exposure to violence or conflict, exposure to alcohol and drug abuse, etc.
  • It is a pattern of ongoing behaviour that interferes with healthy development. Like physical abuse, it may start to happen at a low level and gradually increase in frequency and severity over time.
  • Parents can sometimes put a lot of pressure on their kids to do their best and try hard to improve themselves. They encourage you to study hard at school, compete at the highest level in sports, or eat well and exercise. This may be hard for you to do sometimes, but your parents are just trying to do their best to put you on the right path. If this pressure crosses over into making you feel upset or humiliated a lot of the time, this may be a sign of emotional abuse.


  • Neglect is when a child does not have their basic needs taken care of by their parent or guardian. Often a child who is physically or emotionally abused may also be neglected.
  • Physical neglect is a failure to meet the child's physical needs like food, clothing, shelter, health care, and safety. Emotional neglect is a failure to meet the child's emotional needs like love, friendship, and belonging.
  • Sometimes a child may be neglected if their parents work too much and leave them home alone for most of the day, especially when they are under the age of 12 and legally should not be taking care of themselves. Other children may be neglected if their parents abuse drugs or alcohol and are physically unable to care for them due to intoxication.

Sexual Abuse

  • Sexual abuse is the inappropriate exposure of a child to sexual contact, activity, or behaviour.
  • Examples are: sexual touching or intercourse, obscene phone calls/texts/emails, exposure to pornography or sexual images, sexual exploitation like prostitution, child pornography, or luring a child via the internet for sexual purposes, etc.
  • This can be caused by anyone, including a parent, relative, friend, or stranger. Sometimes this person may be a trusted figure or a person in a position of authority like a religious figure, youth leader, coach, or teacher. Those situations are especially tragic because the child and their parents trusted that person and that trust was betrayed by the abuse.
  • The age of consent in Canada is 16. That means that any child who is under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sex. Anyone who makes sexual advances to a child that age is breaking the law. However, there is a "close in age exception" to this law. A child who is 14 or 15 years old may legally consent to sexual acts if the other person is less than 5 years older than them - for example a 15 and 17 year old can legally engage in consenting sex because they are close in age.
  • A child may feel pressured to say "yes" to a sexual act because they are young and vulnerable, but even if the child says yes it is still breaking the law because they are not old enough to legally consent.

Signs of Abuse

If you notice some of the following signs, it may be an indicator that someone you know has been abused. It is not a guarantee that abuse has happened, but it may be a reason to talk to your friend about it.

  • Hinting at or talking out rightly about abuse
  • Unexplained and/or repeated bruises or injuries
  • Burns that leave a pattern outlining an object used to make a burn (iron, rope, cigarette end)
  • Being continually hungry, not dressed for weather, or wearing dirty clothes
  • Being left alone often, especially a younger child
  • Being aggressive angry, hostile, withdrawn, or afraid
  • Changes in emotions, like a usually happy person is now sad and quiet
  • Refusing to participate or change clothes for gym classes
  • Showing unusual knowledge of sexual matters or acting out sexually
  • Repeatedly running away from home or not wanting to go home from school
  • Poor school attendance

If you notice these signs in a friend, try to talk to them about what is going on with them. Do not be upset if they don't want to talk to you or admit anything. It could be that there really is nothing wrong with them and they are just having a bad day. Or it could be that they are being abused but they aren't ready to disclose this to anyone because they are afraid or ashamed. Do not pressure your friend, but just let them know that you will be there for them if they ever want to talk to you about anything.

If a friend discloses abuse to you, you can tell them:

  • It's not your fault.
  • I believe you.
  • I'm sorry that happened to you.
  • I'm glad you told me.
  • You can trust me.
  • I'll get you help.
  • I understand that telling is difficult to do, and am proud of you for asking for help.

To support your friend you can:

  • Encourage your friend to tell a trusted adult and offer to help your friend tell them.
  • Respect your friend's privacy and do not tell other friends about the abuse.
  • If your friend is too afraid to talk to an adult about the abuse, tell another trusted adult anyway. Even if you think your friend will get mad at you for telling their secret, it is more important to help your friend get help. Hopefully your friend will see that you were only trying to help them and stay friends with you.

Help is Out There

  • No one has the right to hit you or harm you, to touch you where or how you don't want to be touched, to threaten you or make you feel small, stupid or useless.
  • If you feel like you may be abused, it is important to stop and think about the issue. Take a step back and imagine if this situation was happening to someone else that you know. What would you tell that person in the same situation?
  • If you aren't sure, talk to someone that you trust like an adult, parent, doctor, teacher, counsellor, or family friend. If you know that something just feels wrong and the adult doesn't take you seriously, try a different person. You have a right to be heard.
  • If you are in an emergency situation and need help right away, call 9-1-1. You don't have to be an adult to ask for emergency medical care.
  • If you choose to disclose an abuse to someone else, remember the When, Who and What.
    • When to Tell: It is never too late to tell someone. Even if the abuse happened several months or even years ago, it is still important to tell someone that it happened to you. Be persistent and keep telling if someone does not believe you.
    • Who to Tell:¬†You can tell a trusted adult or a close friend. You can tell anyone who you think will support you and make you feel safe.
    • What Will Happen: The person you tell should listen to you and believe you. They should want to help you right away. You may have to tell your story again to other adults or even police. Do not be afraid to tell the truth. Abuse is never your fault. It is never okay.

Assignment 2 - Abuse

1. Read the following three Case Studies below.

2. Answer the questions following each Case Study. Submit these answers in the online text box or as a Word Document.

Case Study 1 - Questions

1. What type of abuse is this?

2. How do you think Andrea feels?

3. What advice would you give Andrea?

Case Study 2 - Questions

1. What type of abuse is this?

2. How do you think Jenny feels? How do you think Samantha feels?

3. What advice would you give to Jenny? What advice would you give to Samantha?

Case Study 3 - Questions

1. What type of abuse is this?

2. How do you think Matt feels?

3. What advice would you give to Matt?