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The following definitions are used in this site:

For more information on BC terminology, see the BC Handbook for Action Child Abuse and Neglect. Specifically, refer to part II, Defining Child Abuse and Neglect.

Child or youth

A child is any one who is under the age of 19.

The Child, Family and Community Service Act also has special provisions that focus on the needs of youth between the ages of 16 and 19 and young adults between the ages of 19 and 24.

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Physical abuse

  • Physical abuse is any physical force or action that results, or could result, in injury to a child or youth. It’s stronger than what would be considered reasonable discipline.

See also Indicators of Physical Abuse

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Sexual abuse

  • Sexual abuse is the use of a child or youth for sexual gratification. It includes sexual touching as well as non-touching abuse, such as making a child or youth watch sexual acts.

See also Indicators of Sexual Abuse

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Emotional abuse

  • Emotional abuse is a pattern of destructive behaviour or verbal attacks by an adult on a child or youth. It can include rejecting, terrorizing, ignoring, isolating, or exploiting a child or youth.

See also Indicators of Emotional Abuse

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Emotional harm

  • Emotional harm exists when emotional abuse is persistent and chronic. It can result in emotional damage to the child and youth. A child or youth may be defined as emotionally harmed if they demonstrate severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, self-destructive behaviour, or aggressive behaviour.

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  • Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s or youth's basic needs: food, clothing, adequate shelter, supervision and medical care. Neglect is the form of abuse most frequently reported to the Ministry for Children and Families.

See also indicators of neglect
and failure to thrive

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Indirect disclosures
  • verbal hints that appear to be about abuse
  • written hints that appear to be about abuse
  • graphic hints, e.g. journal writing, drawings, art work that appear to be about abuse
Direct disclosure
  • child says they are being abused or neglected
  • child says they will tell about something happening to them only if certain conditions are met
  • child pretends it is happening to someone else.
Third party disclosure
  • child discloses abuse happening to another child


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