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Child Abuse

Child abuse is when someone, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child.

Children under the age of 18 may be exposed to abuse and neglect by a parent, caregiver, or another person in a custodial role (e.g., clergy, coach, teacher).

Report Child Abuse or Welfare Concerns for a Child

If there is an immediate danger to someone or a medical emergency, call 9‑1‑1.

If you suspect ongoing abuse, but there is not an immediate danger to the individual, call the non-emergency line at 619-531-2000 or 858-484-3154 to report the abuse.

You can also call the San Diego County 24/7 Child Abuse Hotline at 858-560-2191.

Types of Child Abuse

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force that can result in physical injury. Examples include hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other shows of force against a child.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves pressuring or forcing a child to engage in sexual acts. It includes behaviors such as fondling, penetration, and exposing a child to other sexual activities.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include name-calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love, and threatening.


Neglect is the failure to meet a child’s basic physical and emotional needs. These needs include housing, food, clothing, education, and access to medical care.

Signs of Child Abuse

  • Frequent or unexplained injuries
  • Injuries that appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt
  • Sexual language, knowledge, interest, or behavior beyond what is normal for the child's age
  • Specific comments or complaints about abuse
  • Lack of basic needs for food, clothing, and medical care
  • Poor hygiene
  • Sudden decline in school performance or frequent truancy
  • Lack of supervision for long periods of time
  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong
  • Always watchful and on alert as if waiting from something bad to happen
  • Shies away from touches, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home