Physical, psychological and emotional abuse

Throughout history, countries have transformed and reworked laws as the interactions between adults and youth evolve. Significant changes have occurred in the role of parents and caregivers. Children have rights and conventions exist that determine what is acceptable in society. Yet, physical, moral and emotional abuse of young people still exists among us. What are the distinctions between these different kinds of abuse? What are the rights of minors in the face of abuse? This is what we will now look at.

What are the differences between physical, psychological and emotional abuse?

Most often, abuse occurs when there is an authority figure in the relationship between the two people. For example, between a parent and a child, or between an adult working in a school and a student. There are different kinds of physical and psychological abuse. While physical abuse is fairly easy to identify, moral and emotional abuse is more difficult to recognize.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse of youth includes physical mistreatment and neglect. These acts include harming or threatening a child or young person for example. The physically abused person may be hit, choked, burned, forcefully grabbed, pulled, pushed, thrown, dragged, restrained or pinched. It is abuse when it is done deliberately. It can happen once or repeatedly.

Neglect is also a form of physical abuse. It specifically involves legal guardians who are responsible for the care and basic needs of children and youth. Neglect occurs when caregivers do not allow a minor to grow up in a safe and healthy way.

Psychological and emotional abuse

Moral and emotional abuse are part of psychological abuse in general. These include the repeated behaviours, gestures, words and attitudes that aim to devalue a person and lead to the deterioration of their living conditions and their self confidence.

Moral and emotional abuse can easily go unnoticed. Very often, it is a matter of words or a critical attitude towards a person and it can manifest in subtle ways. However, even if the scars are not visible on the outside, this type of repeated abuse has consequences that are just as serious as a physical assault.

When an authority figure (parent, teacher, coach, etc.) constantly criticizes, threatens or ignores a young person, it shatters their self-esteem and confidence. Constantly threatening, humiliating, belittling, critiquing, yelling at or even breaking things and ignoring a young person’s opinion are equally considered abuse and can heavily destroy one’s well-being.

Psychological violence is easily hidden in acts and words that at first seem to have no serious consequences. But because of their repetition, these abuses will generate deep scars with time.

What are the rights of young people in the face of physical, moral and emotional abuse?

Every person is born into the world with rights and freedoms. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has been signed by almost every country in the world. Canada signed the Convention in 1991 and is committed to protecting and promoting the rights of children under the age of 18.

Every young person has the right to live in conditions that allow them to develop in happiness and health. A young person whose basic needs are not met is a victim of neglect. When we speak of basic needs, we are referring specifically to the right :

- To housing
- To food
- To rest
- To receive medical and dental services
- To be able to ensure personal hygiene
- To grow up in a safe environment
- To be heard
- To be supervised and supported
- To exercise and enjoy the fresh air

There are some forms of emotional abuse that are considered crimes. For example, threatening to hurt yourself or someone else. Stalking is also a crime when it makes you fear for your safety. What is also called "stalking" is following you and having regular contact with you without your consent.

What are the consequences of this abuse in the development of a young person?

A victim of abuse generally experiences feelings of insecurity, rejection and insignificance. Continued, excessive and abusive behaviour has a strong impact on a young person's self-esteem and confidence. Anxiety, depression and self-destructive behaviours can also develop.

Victims of abuse may also feel that they have some responsibility for what happens to them. But what happens to a young person who is physically or psychologically abused is never their fault. It's about one person's control over another.

Abuse can happen in the home, but it can also happen outside such as in schools, sports clubs, associations or places of worship – oftentimes, the abuse can happen in a place where the youth should feel safe. The abuser may be a parent, sibling, teacher, caregiver, specialist or volunteer who works with youth.

If you think you are being physically, emotionally or morally abused, there are people who can listen to you, help you, or refer you to help. Your family doctor or a public health person will help you treat your physical injuries immediately.

If you have questions, don't hesitate to talk to someone you trust. Feeling the support of a family member, friend or neighbor is important to get out of the loneliness and to be able to put words to the pain. Confide in someone, as people will be able to help you out more if they understand what is going on.

If you would rather stay anonymous, service lines like Jeunesse, J’écoute are available and free to use. Intervention specialists are trained to answer your questions and can help you find resources adapted to your situation.

About Us

LOVE supports youth to thrive through programs and healthy relationships that build emotional intelligence and help overcome the challenges they face. Our participants emerge from LOVE’s programs with greater resilience, heightened skills, and the confidence to be inspirational leaders.