Child Abuse Facts



  • Physical abuse includes beating, burning, or punching a child.
  • Emotional abuse may involve criticizing, insulting, rejecting, or withholding love from a child.
  • Sexual abuse includes rape, touching/fondling, or involving a child in pornography.
  • Neglect includes failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs.  Leaving a young child home alone or failing to provide needed medical care may be considered neglect.

Child abuse is defined through state laws, so there is no federal standard throughout the country. In Iowa, the Legislature defines “child abuse” to include the following harm:

  • The failure to provide for adequate food, shelter, clothing or other care necessary for a child’s health and well-being
  • Intended physical injury
  • Mental injury to a child
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • Presence of an illegal drug in a child’s body as a result of actions or neglect
  • Manufacturing a dangerous substance in a child’s presence.
  • Allowing a known sex offender, who is not the caretaker’s spouse or child’s biological parent, custody or access to a child
  • Providing access to or showing obscene material to a child


Who abuses children?  Most often, the abuser is someone the child knows, such as a parent, neighbor, or relative.  (But note that most adults are not abusers.)

Where does it happen?  Child abuse usually happens in the child’s home.  Sometimes it happens in other settings, such as a child-care center,  (But this is fairly uncommon.)

Isn’t child abuse rare?  Each year, close to 3 million reports of suspected abuse are filed in the United States.  Many more never get reported.  One victim of child abuse is too many.


In Iowa, the Department of Human Services (“DHS”) is responsible for responding to reports of possible abuse.  In 2016, there were 8,892 Iowa children who were confirmed as abused.  This reflects a 7.2% increase from 2015.

Child abuse dis-proportionally impacts young children.  For the past several years, approximately half of the children confirmed as abused in Iowa were under the age of six years.

In Warren County, there were 128 children confirmed as abused in 2016 and 50.6% of those children were between 0-5 years of age. The previous year, 79 “unique” children were confirmed as abused and 44.5% of those were 0-5 years of age.

Almost 4 out of every 5 child abuse cases in Iowa 2016 were due to denial of critical care, commonly referred to as neglect which indicates that a parent or caretaker failed to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing or other care necessary for a child’s well-being. The next most common types of abuse were physical injury (18) drug affected child (7) and sexual abuse (5).

For more information on child abuse statistics in Iowa, go to


Adverse Childhood Experiences

The landmark ACEs study confirmed that Adverse Childhood Experiences before the age of 18 not only impact healthy brain development in children but also increases the likelihood of negative health and behavioral outcomes in adulthood.   Adverse Childhood Experiences include childhood abuse and household dysfunction such as divorce and domestic violence .  As the number of “ACEs ” increase, so does the risk of many lifelong health issues  including heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse and depression.   Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to some of today’s most costly medical ,psychiatric and social issues.

In the Iowa ACEs Study, one in five Iowa adults reported three or more ACEs.  Fifteen percent of Iowans reported four or more ACEs -an ACE score that has been shown in many studies to be tied to a wide range of poor health outcomes.   Here in Warren County, more than 40% of people reported two or more ACEs.

The most effective prevention of ACEs is to reduce young children’s exposure to extremely stressful conditions, such as recurrent abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver mental illness or substance abuse, or violence and/or repeated conflict

Research shows that providing stable, responsive, nurturing relationships as early in life as possible can prevent or even reverse the damaging effects of childhood adversity, with lifelong benefits for learning, behavior, and health. All of the environments in which children live and learn, and the quality of their relationships with adults and caregivers have a significant impact on cognitive, emotional and social development.

For more information about the ACEs Study, visit

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