What is child abuse?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Child abuse is physical and / or mental abuse, sexual abuse, negligent or negligent behavior, or commercial or other exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to a child’s health, survival, development or dignity. Relationship of responsibility, belief or power. A

Physical abuse

Physical violence is the use of force or violence against a child to injure or at risk of injury: hitting (with hands, fists, feet, objects …), biting, burning, poisoning, drugs or Dangerous substances (alcohol, tobacco, drugs…), suffocation, suffocation, shaking, pushing, drowning … Violence against children does not have to be habitual or repeated to bring it under the law.

In 2016, police recorded 131 child homicides, of which 67 occurred in families. Of these 67 children who died of parental or loved one injuries, about 4 out of 5 were under 5 years of age. Note that these figures only reflect cases known to the police

Violence against children is severely punished by law, especially when the perpetrator is a parent or close friend of the victim.

Whatever the law says

Victims under the age of 15

Violence against a minor under the age of 15 (habitual or isolated) is committed by his father, his mother, his grandparents, or any person in authority over him:

  • 30 years in prison when they killed the victim;
  • 20 years in prison when they lead to permanent disability;
  • 10 years in prison and a 150,000 fine when they cause serious injury;
  • 5 years in prison and 75,000 fine if the injury is less serious.

Victims over 15 years of age

Punishment for violence (habitual or isolated) by a parent over a minor over 15 years of age is:

  • 15 years in prison when they lead to permanent disability;
  • 5 years in prison and 75,000 fine, when they cause serious injury;
  • 3 years in prison and € 45,000 fine if the injury is less serious.

Focus on domestic violence: Violence against women is often violence against children.

Violence between couples is serious, sometimes with serious consequences for children who come in contact with it and are thus completely victimized.

143,000 children live in a home where a woman has declared herself a victim of violence perpetrated by her spouse, whether physical or / or sexual. 42% of these children are under 6 years of age. In 2015, 35 children were killed in domestic violence. 96 children were orphaned after the homicide between the couple and 68 were present at the scene of the murder.

Pay attention to the trembling baby syndrome

Trembling is not an isolated incident in children. Hundreds of children are being victimized every year. This abuse, which occurs voluntarily by adults, sometimes denies the seriousness of their actions, it represents the most severe form of head injury in children.

In France, 1 in 10 children die of shock, the rest will suffer lifelong consequences. Shaking baby syndrome is the cause of severe neurological sequels that manifest themselves in intellectual, visual or motor impairments as well as behavioral, speech or attention disorders.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is not usually an isolated abuse. Previous symptoms indicative of abuse are especially common in diagnosed children. To avoid recurrence, it is possible to identify specific symptoms in the dedicated article.

L’Assurance Maladie also offers some tips to help keep a crying baby’s mouth calm or recover.

Psychological violence

More misunderstood than physical violence, perhaps more difficult to identify, Mental violence is never trivial, when the victim is a child.

Emotional and relational security is one of the basic needs of a child (1). Insulting or derogatory remarks, insults, threats, intimidation, etc. Children fall within the scope of abuse.

Whatever the law says

Penalty punishes violence regardless of its nature, and punishes with the same punishment, if it is emotional violence.

Sexual violence

Sexual violence is not limited to rape, but concerns all activities, including the sexual definition of children. We speak of sexual harassment to justify any sexual assault that occurs with violence, coercion, intimidation or surprise. Rape is one of them, and it is characterized by an act of sexual penetration (vaginal, anal or oral).

Since the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Act of August 3, 2018, the Penal Code specifies that the limitations may be due to the age difference between the offender and his victim or the authority that the offender exercises over the victim.

Furthermore, sexual abuse of a minor is punishable by law, even in the absence of violence, coercion, intimidation or surprise.

Sexual immorality, juvenile prostitution, child pornography and juvenile delinquency (i.e. witnessing their sexual acts or images: masturbation, sex, pornography, etc.) and sexual violence are among the opportunities.

In 2016, security forces recorded 19,700 child victims of sexual violence. It should be noted that this figure represents only the exposed part of the violation, which gives rise to the complaint. According to a survey of available bullies (for example, the INED Virage survey), 1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 reported sexual abuse at least once in their lives: for 56% of women and 75% of men, it occurred in childhood.

Whatever the law says

Rape is punishable by up to 20 years in prison if the victim is a child under the age of 15 or when the perpetrator is a parent, grandparent or other person authorizing the victim. In other cases it is punishable by up to 15 years.

Sexual assault other than rape is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros when the victim is a child under 15 years of age. They carry up to 7 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros against a minor over the age of 15 by a parent, grandparent or other person in charge of the victim, or when a minor attends the event and joins. They were sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined € 75,000 in other cases.

Sexual abuse by a parent, grandparent, or other person can result in up to 10 years in prison and a 150,000 fine.

Corruption for a minor is punishable by up to five years in prison and a 75,000 fine.

Also, the law of March 14, 2016 reintroduces the concept of incest in the Criminal Code for the protection of children, when rape or sexual assault of any height (parents, grandparents, etc.) is committed by the stepfather or stepmother. , A brother or a sister, an uncle or an aunt, a nephew or a niece.


Negligence is depriving the person responsible for the child (parents, grandparents, etc.) of the necessary elements for his proper development and well-being. It could be, for example, lack of food, sleep, care, attention … thus neglect is a form of abuse, such as the lack of organization of adults on which the present and life depends. The future of the child. Invisible and often forgotten, despite the neglect, the child is at risk of survival, safety, awakening, self-esteem and education (1).

Negligence may not be intentional, but it does endanger the child: in this case it falls within the scope of abuse and must be reported.

Whatever the law says

In fact, for a parent or parent in custody, depriving a child of food or care for compromising his or her health can result in up to 7 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros.

Consequences for the victims

There are always serious consequences for abused children.

Subsequent effects of abuse are not just physical: scarring or pain, sensory disturbances, sleep disturbances, loss of ability, permanent deterioration of health, disability, and even premature death. Indeed, the effects of abuse on the brain, on psychology, and on the development of children have been extensively documented, with professionals going so far as to speak of psycho-trauma.

Abuse can create relational difficulties, anger, anxiety or even distress in a child. However, this stress can have detrimental effects on health:

  • Impairments in brain development, especially in the processing of information, increase the risk of disorders of attention, emotion, knowledge and behavior,
  • Impaired development of the biological system of stress management increases the risk of anxiety, depression and cardiovascular problems as well as other health problems in adults,
  • Significant risk of psychological and interpersonal difficulties, including personality disorders related to high levels of negativity, poor emotional control and low motivation, confidence and endurance skills,
  • Poor learning skills and academic performance, including deficits in executive function and attention control, low IQ, reading difficulty, and low level of study. (1)

The younger the child, the more dependent he is on his environment. Thus, neglect early in life can have serious consequences for a child’s development.

Focus on the effects of domestic violence

Affects children’s health by attending scenes of violence: enuresis (“bed wet”), anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome … they can affect their development: stereotypical self-esteem and identity building based on women and men Believe about. Finally, the separation that family privacy requires, and the ignorance of other non-violent approaches, exposes the child to the antisocial effects of violence, thus increasing the risk of reproduction of violent behavior.

To learn more:

See also:

What if you witnessed child abuse?

(1) Procedures for consensus on the basic needs of the child in child protection assigned to Dr. Marie-Paul Martin-Blachais in 2017

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