Child abuse is a unique special interest where medical practitioners gain expertise in the detection of signs and symptoms of abuse and in the management of its effects on the child. Child abuse specialists are mostly Pediatricians and Psychiatrists but can also be joined in by other specialties depending on the needs of the abused child.
Child abuse can be grouped into four categories:
- Physical abuse - Physical abuse is the act of harming a child by hitting, kicking, pinching, burning, or any other means that can result in physical injuries to the child such as broken bones, bruises, burns, cuts, or other wounds. Physical abuse is often detected by practitioners by eliciting a history that does not accurately account for the extent of the injuries of the child.
- Emotional abuse - Emotional abuse is the act of damaging the self-esteem and morale of a child by shouting, embarrassing, ignoring, humiliating, leaving, or making the child feel unwanted. This type of abuse may be difficult to see because it does not leave any visible mark on the child, but the effects on the psychological well-being of the child can be lasting. Most of the time this type of abuse is associated with socialization or behavioral difficulties.
- Sexual abuse - Sexual abuse is the act of forcing or coercing a child (typically less than age 16) to engage in a sexual activity. Even consensual sex with a young child is considered statutory rape in many jurisdictions.
- Neglect - Neglect of a child happens when the caregivers of a child ignore their responsibilities in caring, providing, feeding, teaching, and loving the child. Neglected children often do not receive proper nutrition, proper education, and proper medical care.
Because children cannot protect themselves from abuse, Child Abuse specialists are trained to detect signs of abuse even when it is not volunteered by the child. In addition, if child abuse is suspected, medical practitioners are mandated by law to report these cases to help remove the child from any abusive environment.