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In Australia, a child is abused every 15 minutes.

There is help available

Catherine Blair, Joint Investigation Response Team Senior Health Clinician, Child Protection Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead

“Even though you feel that people mightn’t believe you or that you’ve been told that it’s your fault – it’s not and there is help out there.

“A lot of kids when they’re experiencing abuse don’t know what to do about it.

“A lot of them, when I’ve worked with children, have talked around just trying to manage it themselves but things don’t get better.

“It’s really important to know that there are people out there that can help, be it a child protection service, the police – in some matters, and counselling services and health services.

“So, it’s really important to remember that there is help and it’s not something that you should have to manage by yourself and you shouldn’t be going through.” – Catherine Blair

The effects of physical abuse on children

Dr Grace Wong, Consultant Paediatrician at the Child Protection Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead

Physical abuse is any form of physical violence against children, including family and domestic violence.

“We have, in this unit, unfortunately, seen too many cases of children who have come to hospital with a range of injuries that have been inflicted by their carers.

“Children with bruises, burns, broken bones, head injuries, abdominal injuries.

“Some children have died as a result of their injuries.

“Other children have had injuries so devastating that they’ve been left with permanent damage and disabilities.

“Even for children whose injuries have healed, the emotional scarring that accompanies this form of abuse lasts a lifetime.” – Dr Grace Wong

The effects of emotional abuse on children

Laura Kelly, Senior Social Worker at the Child Protection Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead

Emotional abuse is what you might call an unseen type of abuse in that it doesn’t leave any marks, bruising or broken bones but it does have a very negative effect on children and young people.

It is defined by a pattern of behaviour from a parent or a caregiver which has a negative impact on a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development.

The types of behaviour include:

  • Verbal abuse, yelling and screaming, belittling, and shaming the child
  • Ignoring the child and rejecting affection
  • Isolation from family
  • Terrorising and threatening a child

Emotional abuse is one of the most reported types of abuse across Australia.

The effects of sexual abuse on children

Robyn Lamb, Senior Social Worker Department Head of the Child Protection Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead

Sexual abuse is any act of a sexual nature or sexual threat imposed on a child or young person under the age of 16 years.

It is a crime.

Sexual abuse is usually perpetrated by someone known to the child, who takes advantage of their trust, innocence and desire to be loved.

Children often feel guilty about sexual abuse, that it was their fault, and that they should have spoken up sooner.

It’s never the child or young person’s fault.

The effects of neglect on children

Beth Fulton, Senior Occupational Therapist – Child Protection Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead

Neglect is one of the most common forms of child maltreatment that is reported but one of the most under-researched.

It is often considered to be a failure on the part of the caregiver to provide adequate supervision, emotional nurturing, appropriate medical care, food, clothing and shelter for a child.

We do know that neglect happens in rich families but is more common in more socially disadvantaged families.

Families who are experiencing social disadvantage are also likely to be associated with high levels of parental stress, inadequate housing or homelessness, lack of basic needs, substance abuse, domestic violence, and all of these have been strongly associated with neglect.

There is little doubt that neglected children suffer serious negative outcomes and that neglect appears to have serious negative effects on the cognitive, emotional and social development of children.