According to the World Health Organization (WHO), child abuse refers to any form of harm, abuse or neglect that affects a child under 18 years of age; it covers all types of physical or affective abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence, and commercial or other exploitation that will or may be detrimental to the health, development or dignity of the minor or endanger their survival in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.

Child abuse is a global problem with lifelong consequences. Some children outgrow the physical and psychological consequences of abuse, especially those who have had strong support and have been able to adjust and deal with bad experiences.  However, for may others, abuse can lead to physical, emotional, mental, and behavioral problems. Head injuries and severe disabilities (physical, mental, intellectual, psychological, sensory, auditory, and visual) can occur in young children.  Post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and sexually transmitted infections may be present. Adolescents can suffer gynecological disorders and unwanted pregnancies.  The cognitive and academic performance of the victims is also affected.  The use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs are present on some occasions because of the mistreatment received.

 Data from Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics for 2021 estimate that:

  • More than 5,000 minors are abused each year.
  • 10 out of every 1,000 children under 18 years of age are mistreated.
  • Boys and girls are abused in equal proportion.
  • First three predominant types of abuse are:
    • Negligence (33.5%)
    • Emotional neglect (32.3%)
    • Educational neglect (14.8%)
    • Sexual abuse predominates in girls (81.6%) more than in boys (18.4%).
    • In most cases the mother and/or father are the ones who commit the abuse.

If you have suffered child abuse, seek help to avoid repeating the cycle of abuse.  Report abuses by calling the Family Department’s Abuse Hotline at (787)749-1333 or the 9-1-1 Emergency System. Abuse can be prevented and treated. 

Help Resources:
ESCAPE (787) 287-6161
Renacer Social (787) 694-1967

By:  Tania Mangual-Monzón, MS, BHE

Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics for 2021- Child Abuse Profile
World Health Organization-Child Abuse
Mayo Clinic-Child Abuse