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.

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 a child or young person is being abused, or you are concerned about their welfare or well-being, you can report suspected child abuse or exploitation.

Everything you tell us will be in confidence.

If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call the Police on 999.

Abuse and exploitation can show themselves in many different ways and they often interlink with each other.

It is important to note that abuse and exploitation can also affect both female and male children.

The most common types of child abuse are listed below.

Types of child abuse

Physical abuse usually occurs when a child is deliberately, physically harmed.

This can take many forms including:

  • hitting and punching
  • shaking and throwing
  • burning and scalding
  • suffocating and strangulation
  • poisoning
  • slapping
  • kicking or having objects thrown at them

Physical abuse can involve parents or carers pretending that the child has an illness and can cause the child to be physically 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 (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.

CSE can include the provision of gifts, money, drugs and alcohol or fear of consequences if the child refuses.

Further information about this type of abuse is available on the CSE webpage.

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.

Further information about this type of abuse is available on the CCE webpage.

Online abuse happens when children use platforms such as social media, blogs, online games or 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
  • bullying
  • grooming

For further information about this type of abuse, see advice on keeping children safe online.

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, online or through text messaging. It can be by a stranger or by someone the child knows in real life and they 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. 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) 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 still 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, report suspected child abuse or exploitation to us, so that we can investigate the situation.

You can also contact us or find out more at Contact Swindon. You won't need to give your name if you contact us, we will treat anything you tell us with the utmost confidentiality.

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