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What is Abuse?

What is Abuse?

What is physical abuse?

Physical abuse is when someone hurts or harms a child or young person on purpose. It includes:

*hitting with hands or objects
*slapping and punching
*burning and scalding
*biting and scratching
*breaking bones

It’s important to remember that physical abuse is any way of intentionally causing physical harm to a child or young person. It also includes making up the symptoms of an illness or causing a child to become unwell.

Signs of physical abuse

Bumps and bruises don’t always mean a child is being physically abused. All children have accidents, trips and falls. And there isn’t just one sign or symptom to look out for. But it’s important to be aware of the signs.

If a child regularly has injuries, there seems to be a pattern to the injuries or the explanation doesn’t match the injuries, then this should be reported.

Physical abuse symptoms include:

*broken or fractured bones
*burns or scalds
*bite marks.

It can also include other injuries and health problems, such as:
*the effects of poisoning, such as vomiting, drowsiness or seizures
*breathing problems from drowning, suffocation or poisoning.

Head injuries in babies and toddlers can be signs of abuse so it’s important to be aware of these. Visible signs include:

*being extremely sleepy or unconscious
*breathing problems
*unusual behaviour, such as being irritable or not feeding properly.

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is any type of abuse that involves the continual emotional mistreatment of a child. It’s sometimes called psychological abuse. Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare, humiliate, isolate or ignore a child.

Emotional abuse is often a part of other kinds of abuse, which means it can be difficult to spot the signs or tell the difference, though it can also happen on its own.

Types of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse includes:

*humiliating or constantly criticising a child
*threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names
*making the child the subject of jokes, or using sarcasm to hurt a child
*blaming and scapegoating
*making a child perform degrading acts
*not recognising a child’s own individuality or trying to control their lives
*pushing a child too hard or not recognising their limitations
*exposing a child to upsetting events or situations, like domestic abuse or drug taking
*failing to promote a child’s social development
*not allowing them to have friends
*persistently ignoring them
*being absent
*manipulating a child
*never saying anything kind, expressing positive feelings or congratulating a child on successes
*never showing any emotions in interactions with a child, also known as emotional neglect.

Signs of emotional abuse

There might not be any obvious physical signs of emotional abuse or neglect. And a child might not tell anyone what’s happening until they reach a ‘crisis point’. That’s why it’s important to look out for signs in how a child is acting.

As children grow up, their emotions change. This means it can be difficult to tell if they’re being emotionally abused. But children who are being emotionally abused might:

*seem unconfident or lack self-assurance
*struggle to control their emotions
*have difficulty making or maintaining relationships
*act in a way that’s inappropriate for their age.

The signs of emotional abuse can also be different for children at different ages.

What is sexual abuse?

When a child or young person is sexually abused, they’re forced or tricked into sexual activities. They might not understand that what’s happening is abuse or that it’s wrong. And they might be afraid to tell someone.

It’s never a child’s fault they were sexually abused – it’s important to make sure children know this.

Types of sexual abuse

There are two types of sexual abuse – contact and non-contact abuse.

Contact abuse is where an abuser makes physical contact with a child. This includes:

*sexual touching of any part of a child’s body, whether they’re clothed or not
*using a body part or object to rape or penetrate a child
*forcing a child to take part in sexual activities
*making a child undress or touch someone else.

Contact abuse can include touching, kissing and oral sex – sexual abuse isn’t just penetrative.

Non-contact abuse is where a child is abused without being touched by the abuser. This can be in person or online and includes:

*exposing or flashing
*showing pornography
*exposing a child to sexual acts
*making them masturbate
*forcing a child to make, view or share child abuse images or videos
*making, viewing or distributing child abuse images or videos
*forcing a child to take part in sexual activities or conversations online or through a smartphone.

Signs of sexual abuse

Knowing the signs of sexual abuse can help give a voice to children. Sometimes children won’t understand that what’s happening to them is wrong. Or they might be scared to speak out. Some of the signs you might notice include:

Emotional and behavioural
*Avoiding being alone with or frightened of people or a person they know.
*Language or sexual behaviour you wouldn’t expect them to know.
*Having nightmares or bed-wetting.
*Alcohol or drug misuse.
*Changes in eating habits or developing an eating problem.
*Changes in their mood, feeling irritable and angry, or anything out of the ordinary.

*Bleeding, discharge, pains or soreness in their genital or anal area.
*Sexually transmitted infections.

What is neglect?

Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs and the most common form of child abuse2. A child might be left hungry or dirty, or without proper clothing, shelter, supervision or health care. This can put children and young people in danger. And it can also have long term effects on their physical and mental wellbeing.

Types of neglect

Neglect can be a lot of different things, which can make it hard to spot.
Types of neglect:

Physical neglect
A child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing or shelter, are not met or they aren’t properly supervised or kept safe.

Educational neglect
A parent doesn’t ensure their child is given an education.

Emotional neglect
A child doesn’t get the nurture and stimulation they need. This could be through ignoring, humiliating, intimidating or isolating them.

Medical neglect
A child isn’t given proper health care. This includes dental care and refusing or ignoring medical recommendations.

Nutritional neglect
When a child is provided with inadequate calories for normal growth in order to thrive or when child obesity occurs due to provision of an unhealthy diet, and parents/carers don’t respond to advice and support from practitioners.

Supervisional neglect
The child may be exposed to hazards, parents/carers are inattentive to avoidable dangers, the child is left with inappropriate caregivers, and/ or experiences a lack of appropriate supervision and guidance.

Signs of neglect

Neglect can be really difficult to spot. Having one of the signs doesn’t necessarily mean a child is being neglected. But if you notice multiple signs that last for a while, they might show there’s a serious problem. Children and young people who are neglected might have:

Poor appearance and hygiene
*being smelly or dirty
*being hungry or not given money for food
*having unwashed clothes
*having the wrong clothing, such as no warm clothes in winter
*having frequent and untreated nappy rash in infants.

Health and development problems
*body issues, such as poor muscle tone or prominent joints
*medical or dental issues
*missed medical appointments, such as for vaccinations
*not given the correct medicines
*poor language or social skills
*regular illness or infections
*repeated accidental injuries, often caused by lack of supervision
*skin issues, such as sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies or ringworm
*thin or swollen tummy
*untreated injuries
*weight or growth issues.

Housing and family issues
*living in an unsuitable home environment, such as having no heating
*being left alone for a long time
*taking on the role of carer for other family members.

Change in behaviour
*becoming clingy
*becoming aggressive
*being withdrawn, depressed or anxious
*changes in eating habits
*displaying obsessive behaviour
*finding it hard to concentrate or take part in activities
*missing school
*showing signs of self-harm
*using drugs or alcohol.