National Child Abuse Month: What is child abuse?

The Department of Defense definition of child abuse according to the Marine Corps Order 1754.11 as:  The physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect of a child by a parent, guardian, foster parent, or by a caregiver, whether the caregiver is interfamilial or extra familial, under circumstances indicating the child’s welfare is harmed or threatened.

Each state provides its own definitions of child abuse within civil and criminal statutes, but they are informed by the following definitions of various forms of child abuse:

  • A non-accidental physical injury as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting, burning or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver or other person who has responsibility for the child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child.
  • A form of child abuse that includes any sexual act performed with a child by an adult or older child, with or without force or threat of force. It may start as seemingly innocent touching and progress to more serious acts, including verbal seduction or abuse, anal or vaginal intercourse, oral sex, sodomy, manual stimulation, direct threats, implied threats or other forms of abuse.
  • A pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This form of abuse is almost always present when other forms of abuse are identified. It may include constant criticism, threats or rejection, as well as withholding love, support or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and, therefore, Child Protective services may not be able to intervene without clear evidence of harm to the child.
  • This is a pattern of behavior that affects a child’s sense of worth by communicating to the child that he or she is not worthy, loved or important.  Psychological abuse may include harsh demands, constant criticism, threats and yelling. Witnessing other violent incidents such as, domestic violence or school violence is also a form of psychological abuse due to the intense fear it produces and the indirect threat to a child’s safety.


Marine Corps Order 1754.11

Joyful Heart Foundation –


Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect by stepping up, speaking up, and reaching out, to raise community awareness; and to create a safe and supervised environment in which our youth can survive and thrive.  Children are more likely to experience positive growth and development   in a safe, stable and nurturing home.  Through educating people about the dangers of child abuse and steps that can be taken to prevent it during Child Abuse Prevention Month, we provide educational tools and reminders, which spread the message of protecting and keeping kids safe. 

Reporting Child Abuse

  • Craven County Department of Social Services (DSS/CPS) – (252) 636-4900 After Hours contact the Craven County Sheriff’s Department (252) 633-2357
  • Carteret County Department of Social Services (252) 728-3181

Other Resources:

Prevent child Abuse North Carolina’s resources and referral line has more information on child abuse and neglect prevention, as well as positive discipline information.

United States Department of Health and Human Services, Social Services

Child Welfare Information Gateway, “What Is Child Abuse and Neglect?” Factsheets, (2008),

National Child Abuse Hotline    1-800-422-4453