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What is child abuse?

This article aims to provide those who are wondering “was I abused as a child?” with more information about the warning signs and symptoms of child abuse. Child abuse is the maltreatment of a child under the age of 18 by an adult or another child. This type of abuse occurs when a child is subject to neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse such as hitting or kicking and/or emotional abuse. The abuse can occur multiple times or it could be a one-off action. Often children who suffer from child abuse don’t understand what is happening to them or they don’t perceive the abuse to be wrong. Consequently, the effects of child abuse can manifest in adulthood. If you believe you were abused as a child, it is important to know that it wasn’t your fault and that help is out there.

Was I abused as a child?: signs of an abusive childhood

Child abuse is devastating and complex; every child’s experience of child abuse will differ significantly from one to the next. However, the following list exhibits shared experiences of children who suffered abuse during childhood:

  • A parent, family friend, other adult or child physically injured you

Physical abuse happens when an adult or another child causes deliberate harm to a child under the age of 18. Physical abuse may happen once or multiple times and can include hitting, kicking, choking, slapping or pinching. This may result in broken bones, fractures, bruises, cuts and burns. Intentionally causing harm to a child is wrong and is an indicator of child abuse.

  • A parent, family friend, other adult or child engaged in sexual behaviour with you

Sexual abuse is a form of child abuse. Sexual abuse can involve performing sexual acts with a child, inappropriate touching, exposing themselves to a child or introducing a child to sexual content such as pornography or indecent images.

  • You were denied necessities as a child

Withholding necessities such as like food, water, or clothing from children is a form of neglect and also a type of child abuse. Your parents or guardian may have withheld necessities as a form of punishment, causing you to suffer malnourishment, dehydration, and a lack of proper hygiene. Your parents or guardian may have also withheld love and affection, which is a form of emotional abuse as well as neglect.

Symptoms of child abuse in adulthood

Many survivors of child abuse block out what happened to them to avoid reliving their terrible experiences. It can be too painful to come to terms with their painful childhood therefore the effects of childhood trauma can manifest in their behaviour as an adult. The following examples demonstrate symptoms of child abuse in adulthood:

  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Becoming angry or frustrated easily
  • Inability to sleep properly
  • Misusing alcohol or drugs
  • Nightmares
  • Displaying a negative outlook on the world
  • Self-isolation

These are just some symptoms of child abuse that adults may face. If you are asking the question “was I abused as a child?” and can relate to some of the symptoms described, you may wish to talk to somebody about your experiences.

What to do next

The process of coming to terms with childhood trauma can be extremely painful, overwhelming and lonely. It is important to seek professional help when you’re ready to aid in your recovery. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) advises adults who’ve been abused in childhood. The NAPAC can refer you to local counselling and support groups. For more information, look on the NAPAC’s website.

It is important to remember that it is never too late to report the abuse to the police, even if the abuse happened years ago. Suppose you decide to claim compensation for the abuse you have suffered. In that case, the CICA will accept applications past their standard “two-year rule” for non-recent abuse claims (also referred to as historic abuse) given that you obtained a crime reference number from the police when you reported the crime. If you have recently reported the abuse to the police, you can still make a claim.

Get in touch

At Abuse Claims UK, our solicitors are experts in dealing with sensitive cases such as child abuse. We will be with you every step of the way should you decide to seek compensation for the psychological trauma you have sustained. For more information about child abuse compensation, please contact us at [email protected].