Child Abuse: Facts, Stories & FAQ's

Child Abuse: Facts, Stories & FAQ's

What is child abuse?

Child abuse can be defined as violence against children or maltreatment of children.

There are four main types of violence against children:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Mental abuse
  • Neglect

These could include maltreatment or exploitation, harm or abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage.

Child abuse can happen anywhere – from here in Australia, with the Royal Commission into child abuse, to developing countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Child abuse is a larger problem than we realise. It affects at least 1.7 billion children every year, but the numbers could be much larger due to underreporting.

For these children, the effects of child abuse can last for life.

1. What are the causes of child abuse?

Root causes of violence against children are extremely complex, and can include social, economic and cultural factors. Some of these factors could include gender inequality, financial instability, humanitarian crises and lack of education.

According to the World Health Organisation, these root causes are often connected to one another, and one can lead to another. For example, being a victim of child abuse can raise a person’s risk of becoming a perpetrator of abuse later in life.

To effectively end child abuse, it’s important to respond to the root causes of this violence.

2. Child abuse facts and statistics 

  • Children make up more than a quarter (28 percent) of all detected trafficking victims. 
  • Nearly 50 million children, across the globe, have migrated across or within borders, or been forcibly displaced. More than half that number – 28 million – are boys and girls who have fled violence and insecurity. 
  • One quarter of all adults report having been physically abused as children.
  • International studies suggest one in five women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child.
  • Every year, there are an estimated 41,000 children under 15 years of age who die from homicide. This number may not represent the whole problem, as a large proportion of deaths due to child abuse are incorrectly attributed to falls, burns, drowning and other causes.

Source: World Health Organisation

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make up more than a quarter (28%) of all detected trafficking victims.  

Nearly 50 million

children across the globe, have migrated across or within borders, or been forcibly displaced.

One quarter

of all adults report having been physically abused as children.

One in five women

and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child, as per international studies.

Every year

there are an estimated 41,000 children under 15 years of age who die from homicide. 

3. Child abuse: Real stories of survival 

Misha: Road to recovery

Misha* seems older than her 11 years of age.

Three years ago, she was trying to buy a block of ice from her neighbours when she was assaulted by a 17-year-old boy. Misha was only eight at the time, and was so traumatised that she refused to leave her house.

Her mother, Anju*, was distraught. Though Misha’s community banded together to report the boy for assault, the police didn’t take any further action.

That’s when World Vision staff learned of the incident and stepped in to help.

A child who faced sexual abuse, was assisted by WV India's Child Protection Unit (CPU) who helped her with legal procedures and to help her cope.

The team empowered Misha’s mother Anju to seek legal assistance, and Misha was given medical tests and psychological support. With the assistance of the child protection unit, Misha’s case was investigated, and the 17-year-old boy was arrested.

“The Child Protection Unit assisted me and helped my family get the justice that we deserved,” says Anju. Today, Misha hopes to be a teacher.

World Vision continues to work to defend the rights of more than 2.6 million children in India today.

*Names changed to protect identities.

Oshuri: Learning to open up again

Home used to be a terrifying place for 14-year-old Oshuri*.

When Oshuri was brought to World Vision staff, she was in deep distress, and continually said, “I don’t like my father. I don’t like my father.”

Eventually, she shared the awful truth: Her father would physically abuse her almost every day. She lived alone with him since she was six, and she hadn’t gone to school for years.

Staff took Oshuri under their wing. Her father was interrogated and admitted it was all true. In turn, Oshuri was given counselling to help her cope with the abuse she’d faced.

Oshuri, a victim of child abuse, ran away from home after she was physically abused by her father. World Vision India's Child Protection Unit helped with a new place to live.

That was three years ago. Today, Oshuri is living with a foster family and hasn’t looked back. With the assistance of World Vision, she is finally getting a steady education, and counselling has helped her blossom in confidence.

“It is quite difficult for us to build her up because she’s been through a lot,” said Joyani*, Oshuri’s foster mother. “But I still do my best to teach her and bring her up in the best possible way.”

For Oshuri, now home is a safe place – a place where she has an opportunity to be loved, cared for and nurtured. It’s what every child deserves.

*Names changed to protect identities.

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4. What are the effects of child abuse?

Child abuse can have long-term consequences, often causing stress that is associated with disruption in early brain development. Extreme stress can impair the development of the nervous and immune systems.

Oshuri has been given a safe place to call home, where she is protected thanks to World Vision India's Child Protection Unit

Adults who have been abused as children are at an increased risk of behavioural, physical and mental health problems. Signs of child abuse could include:

  • depression
  • smoking
  • perpetrating or being a victim of violence
  • obesity
  • high-risk sexual behaviours
  • unintended pregnancy
  • alcohol and drug misuse

These behaviours and characteristics can contribute to heart disease, cancer, suicide and sexually-transmitted infections.

Child abuse also has an economic impact, which could include costs of hospital stays, mental health treatment, child welfare, and longer-term health costs.

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5. What is being done about child abuse?

At World Vision, we firmly believe that, together, we have the power to protect children from all forms of violence. We take a holistic approach to help vulnerable children regain their economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.

Putuli Begum lives in a small hut at Churipatti. World Vision is working for this most vulnerable community to bring change to their lives and prevent child abuse from occurring

At the heart of our work, we seek to protect girls and boys from all forms of violence (as defined by United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child). We commit to being a safe organisation ourselves, and also to promote child safeguarding among our partners. 

We work to:

  • prevent issues of child violence from happening;
  • respond to issues and protect children when they occur; and
  • help restore children who are affected by such issues to a state of well-being.

For example, we work alongside communities to educate families, government institutions and organisations about the rights of children. Just as importantly, we work to provide the right support to overcome challenges and make sustainable change.

You can be part of our vision to change the environments where vulnerable children live and give them back their childhood.

Find out more about how we work to protect children.

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6. How can I help end violence against children?

When you partner with World Vision, you can help us achieve our vision of safe, happy and healthy childhoods for all children. We can fight violence against children in a number of ways:

  1. Educating children
    We work with children to help them learn their own rights and what to do when something is wrong.
  2. Educating parents
    Families may regard violence as a necessary form of discipline or punishment. World Vision helps to challenge harmful social norms through education and training.
  3. Working with community groups
    We help local leaders and groups to learn more about child rights and how they can keep children safe.
World Vision India's Child Protection Unit has helped this child cope after being sexually abused. They have provided her with a range of skills and enrolling her in school where her rights as a child are protected.

Send a girl to school

Educating a girl can change her future. She can gain a higher income and a good job, but she is also more likely to have healthier children and an improved wellbeing.


Sponsoring a child is one way you can help World Vision do all three of these things in a child’s community. When you sponsor a child, you’re joining a community of generous Australians committed to bringing lasting change to children living in poverty.

As a child sponsor, you will help us develop our projects by connecting with vulnerable families and improving the long-term wellbeing of children. You will see updates on your child’s progress and get a chance to build a meaningful connection. Through your support, you will also help us prepare and equip your sponsored child’s community to nurture its most vulnerable members.

Share our vision and, together, we can help the most vulnerable children become able.

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You can be part of the solution

Help stop the abuse of children. Give them a bright future now.