Realities of Child Abuse

Reality: Child abuse does not necessarily involve violence or anger.

Abuse often involves adults exploiting their power over children and young people, and using children and young people as objects for their own gratification rather than respecting their needs and rights as children. Child abuse is defined as “the harming (whether physically, emotionally, or sexually), ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation of any child or young person.”

New Zealand Legislation. 2018. Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 Children’s and Young People’s Well-being Act 1989. [Online] Available at: Accessed 6 April 2018.

Reality: In most cases, the people who commit violent or sexual crimes are not strangers to their victims.

For example, around 90 percent of child sexual abuse is committed by someone known to the child or their family.

Department of Corrections. 2018. Release and management of sexual offenders. [Online] Available at: Accessed 6 April 2018.

Reality: While children and young people are always the victims of abuse and are never to blame, some children and young people are more at risk of being abused or neglected than others.

For example, babies who are born with a high level of needs such as premature babies, those who are chronically ill and babies who constantly cry and are difficult to soothe are more at risk.

Nobilo, H, 2016. Why should we care? The abuse and neglect of children in New Zealand. Brainwave Trust, [Online]. Spring, 3. Available at: Accessed 6 April 2018.

Reality: Most children and young people who have been abused by their parents still have a strong attachment or love for their parents and want to remain living with them.

What they really want is for the abuse to stop.

Kelly, W, 2006. Understanding the patterns and relationships. The Practice Journal of Child, Youth and Family: Social Work Now, [Online]. August, 11-16. Available at: Accessed 6 April 2018.

Reality: It is extremely common for children and young people who have truthfully disclosed abuse to retract (take back what they have told) due to negative adult reactions to the disclosure of the abuse.

This doesn’t mean the abuse didn’t happen.

Summit, R. C. (1983). The child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome. Child Abuse and Neglect, 7, 177-193.

Reality: Children and young people almost never make up stories about being sexually abused.

Kathleen Coulborn Faller. 1999. Is the child victim of sexual abuse telling the truth?. [Online] Available at: Accessed 6 April 2018.