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What is child abuse?

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What is child abuse?


Hi there, you are very welcome to Ask Alex.    

Thank you for reaching out to us. You have asked about child abuse and what exactly it is. Abuse can take many forms. It is any behaviour that harms you (a child or young person) or someone else (another child or young person). There are various forms of abuse, but child abuse can be categorised into four different types. These include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. 

Physical abuse 

Physical abuse is where somebody hurts your body; it may leave marks or bruises, e.g. hitting, pushing, kicking, shaking, biting or scratching. 

Sexual abuse 

Sexual abuse is where somebody makes you get involved in sexual activity, e.g. touching genitals or breasts, kissing, showing you pornography or watching you naked. 

Emotional abuse 

Emotional abuse is hurting you with words or not properly caring for you emotionally, e.g. name calling, shouting, rejecting, ignoring or criticising you or fighting in front of you. 


Neglect is when you aren’t given the things you need to feel safe and secure, e.g. you’re not helped when you’re hurt or sick, you’re not given enough food to eat or a place to live, or you’re left alone for long periods of time. 

There are lots of different emotions you might feel if you’re being abused by somebody. These may include feelings of guilt, shame, confusion, embarrassment, anger, fear, hurt, loneliness, or worry. These feelings can be hard for us to navigate on our own, and it’s important to find an adult you trust and feel safe talking to. This might be a parent, an adult relative, an adult friend, a coach, a doctor or a nurse. 

We also have a similar article on our website that you might find helpful . You may find more information on the Túsla website around understanding child abuse by following this link:   

Abuse is never ok. It is never your fault. No one has the right to harm you or hurt you physically, sexually, or emotionally. Every child and young person has the right to be safe, to be cared for and to be treated with love and respect. It is also important to remember that your feelings matter, and you have a right to be heard. If you would like more information on this topic or if you are being abused but do not feel ready to talk to a trusted adult, you are very welcome to chat with the Childline Team by phone on 1800 66 66 66 or through our web chat on You can start a chat by clicking on the Orange Tab on the right-hand side of your screen. Childline services are free and confidential, and are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.   

Thank you for contacting us.  

Take care of yourself,    


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