Understanding Different Types of Harm

Harm and abuse comes in different forms. They include neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse (including bullying), sexual abuse, and cyber abuse.

Understanding different types of harm

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is the intentional or careless causing of physical harm. It can include punching, beating, shaking, biting, burning or otherwise physically hurting a child.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse involves continuing behaviour by adults towards children and between children. It can include verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, belittling or name calling which erodes social competence or self-esteem over time. Exposure to chaotic, controlling or violent environments (including family violence) is also an indicator of emotional abuse.


Neglect is the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs for food, shelter, supervision and physical and emotional care. This lack of care can negatively impact upon a child’s overall development.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when someone uses their power, force or authority to involve a child in sexual activity. There are many forms of child sexual abuse. For more information see Child Wise, Wise Up To Sexual Abuse.

Cyber Abuse

Cyber abuse is the use of cell phones, messaging, e-mail, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to harass, threaten or intimidate a child.

Finding out more about types of harm

The Child Safe Standards have more information about different types of harm: http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/about-the-department/documents-and-resources/policies,-guidelines-and-legislation/child-safe-standards

You can also visit http://www.disabilityhotline.net.au/what-is-abuse-and-neglect/formal-definitions-of-abuse-and-neglect/ for more information.