Advice and guidance if you suspect child abuse
Child abuse is where a child is being, or has been, harmed or not looked after properly. It can apply to a number of different situations which are covered in more detail below. Child abuse can relate to any person up to the age of 18. If the person is vulnerable this extends to the age of 25.
If you suspect that any child or young person is being abused, or you are concerned about their welfare or well-being, go to the Report Suspected Child Abuse or Exploitation webpage Everything you tell us will be in confidence.
The most common types of child abuse are listed below. However, abuse and exploitation can appear in many different ways. They also often interlink with each other. It is key to note that abuse and exploitation affect both female and male children.
Types of child abuse
Physical abuse is the type most people associate with child abuse. Physical abuse is when a child is deliberately, physically harmed. This can take a lot of forms including:
- hitting and punching
- shaking and throwing
- burning and scalding
- suffocating and strangulation
- kicking or having objects thrown at them
It can also involve parents or carers pretending the child has an illness or cause them to actually become sick.
Emotional abuse (also known as psychological abuse), is the continued emotional mistreatment of a child. This can include:
- ignoring a child
- saying cruel things and bullying them
- making them feel guilty as if all family issues are their fault
- lowering their self-esteem by describing them as ‘useless’ or ‘worthless’
- belittling them
- making fun of what they say
- not letting them speak at all
Neglect is the most common form of child abuse. It is when a child’s most basic needs are not met over an ongoing period of time. Examples of this could be a child not being provided with food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care, supervision or even parental attention.
Child Sexual Exploitation
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is when children are put, or coerced, into exploitative relationships in which they participate in sexual activities. It can happen when the child is alone or with others, sometimes in exchange for attention. This can include the provision of gifts, money, drugs and alcohol or fear of consequences if they refuse. For further information about this type of abuse, see the CSE webpage.
Child Criminal Exploitation
Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) is when children are persuaded, trafficked or coerced into carrying out illegal activities such as drug running or selling, usually for dangerous gangs. For further information about this type of abuse, see the CCE webpage.
Online abuse is any kind of abuse that happens online using platforms such as social media, blogs, online games or through mobile phones. Online abuse can include:
- sexual exploitation, such as requesting explicit images or videos from the child and then sharing them with other predators. They can then threaten to share the images with the child’s friends or family if they do not produce more.
- emotional abuse
For further information about this type of abuse, see the Advice on keeping children safe online webpage.
Grooming is when a person builds a relationship or friendship with a child with the aim of gaining their trust and loyalty to later exploit them. This is often for sexual or trafficking purposes. Grooming can take place in person or online or through text messaging. It can be by a stranger or someone the child knows in real life. The perpetrator can be of any age and gender. Children may not realise or understand they are being groomed and may not know that the things they are being asked to do is abuse.
Child trafficking, often interlinked with modern slavery, is a form of abuse where children are transported from one place to another to be exploited. Children may find themselves sold into sexual slavery, criminal activity, forced labour, domestic servitude, or forced marriage among other situations. The child may be moved from one country to another or even between different towns or places in the same country.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
FGM is the medically unnecessary, complete or partial removal of the external female genitalia. Reasons for performing FGM can be religious, cultural or social however, it is considered abuse. FGM does not have any health benefits and causes long term physical and emotional trauma. It is important to note that a child may be taken out of the country for FGM related reasons. They could also be taken out of the country to be coerced into a forced marriage which is also a form of abuse.
Get in touch
If you or someone you know is being subjected to any of the above, it is important to get help. If you are concerned about the welfare or well-being of a child or young person, get in touch via the Report Suspected Child Abuse or Exploitation webpage, so that we can investigate the situation.
Find out more about the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and remember, you don't have to give your name if you contact us. We will treat anything you tell us with the utmost confidentiality.