What is child abuse

What is child abuse?

By Lena Hellblom Sjögren, PhD, psychologist

Translation: Ruby Harrold-Claesson, lawyer



Lena Hellblom Sjögren is an accredited psychologist and Ph. D. Known here in the Nordic countries and in other European countries as a conscientious and impartial expert witness, she is often retained to do investigations in complicated cases of incest and sexual abuse of children and also in custody and care cases.

This article was written in October 2004 as a contribution to the on-going smacking debate that started in the wake of the verdict from the Varberg District Court that acquitted the stepfather who had slapped his stepdaughter's face because she had spat in his face.

The article was first published in Swedish under the title "Vad är barnaga". This translation is published here for the benefit of our foreign visitors.



 It is quite obvious that adults should not apply repeated or cruel violence towards children.


But, is a slap on the face child abuse? In an article in the newspaper, Örebro-Kuriren, of October 20, 2004, MP Helena Frisk (social democrat) demanded that the stepfather who on one occasion had slapped his step daughter's face on a parking lot should be sentenced for child abuse.  She wrote that the 15-year old girl had spat on her stepfather when he refused to buy her a DVD-record.

Sentencing a father who has slapped a stubborn, spitting teenager's face for child abuse does not in any way guarantee that girl's or any other young person's legal rights, like frisk claims. Instead it sends signals that the society gives the child/children the right not to respect their parents as authorities. That very same society takes children into public care and places them in foster homes and institutions where they can be exposed to both physical and mental abuse, but reports of those incidents are not taken seriously.


Can the reason for this be that children in public care have the state, that is expected to be good and caring, as their parents?

Which MP wants to give a thought to the lack of rights and the vulnerability of the children in public care? Does anyone dare to address the cases of neglect that are being administered by the social services in our welfare system, those who at present have greater powers than any court of law to pass judgement on what is most important in life, namely the right for children to live with their parents?


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The Effects of the Swedish Anti-smacking Law. A Consultation Paper
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Smacking: Those Swedes must be crazy
By Jean Francis Held


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