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What is abuse?

Child Abuse

Children have a right to be safe. But some children are hurt, neglected and used by adults or other children.

The NSPCC defines child abuse as "when a child is intentionally harmed by an adult or another child. It can be over a period of time, but can also be a one-off action. It can be physical, sexual or emotional, and can happen in person or online. It can also be a lack of love, care and attention - this is neglect". 

The NSPCC summarises the main types:


Physical abuse is deliberately hurting a child causing injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns or cuts.

It isn’t accidental - children who are physically abused suffer violence such as being hit, kicked, poisoned, burned, slapped or having objects thrown at them. Shaking or hitting babies can cause non-accidental head injuries (NAHI). Sometimes parents or carers will make up or cause the symptoms of illness in their child, perhaps giving them medicine they don’t need and making the child unwell – this is known as fabricated or induced illness (FII).

There’s no excuse for physically abusing a child. It causes serious, and often long-lasting, harm – and in severe cases, death.

Watch the NSPCC's Alfie story for more information:


Emotional abuse is the ongoing emotional maltreatment or emotional neglect of a child. It’s sometimes called psychological abuse and can seriously damage a child’s emotional health and development.

Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare or humiliate a child or isolating or ignoring them.

Children who are emotionally abused are usually suffering another type of abuse or neglect at the same time – but this isn’t always the case.

Watch the NSPCC's Words can hurt video for more information.


A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities.  This doesn't have to be physical contact and it can happen online.

Sometimes the child won't understand that what's happening to them is abuse.  They may not even understand that it's wrong.

Watch the NSPCC's Sarah's story for more information.

The PANTs campaign teaches children important messages, like their body belongs to them and they should tell an adult if they're upset or worried.


Neglect is the on-going failure to meet a child's basic needs and is the most common form of child abuse.

  • A child may be left hungry or dirty, without adequate clothing, shelter, supervision, medical or health care.
  • A child may be put in danger or not protected from physical or emotional harm.
  • They may not get the love, care and attention they need from their parents.

A child who's neglected will often suffer from other abuse as well. Neglect is dangerous and can cause serious, long-term damage - even death.

The NSPCC Della's Story describes a situation of neglect and what to do.

Further information on types of abuse, spotting the signs, effects of abuse and additional resources can be found on the NSPCC website.


If you need help for yourself or for a friend because of abuse or neglect, you should speak to an adult you trust. Teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers and other adults who work with children are responsible for helping to stop abuse. They will listen to what you have to say. Don't be afraid to talk to these people if you are worried. They are there to help you.

However, if you or anyone you know who is under 18 is being abused or neglected, please pick up the phone and ring the following:

Family Connect team

01952 385385

Monday to Friday
9am - 5pm

Emergency Duty Service

01952 676500

Monday to Friday
After 5pm

Saturday and Sunday
24 hours

West Mercia Police

101 or 999 in an emergency



0800 1111



0808 800 5000 (Telephone)
88858 (Texting) (Email)


Princess Royal Hospital

01952 641222


If you are being bullied, the most important thing you can do is to tell someone you trust.

Bullying can mean different things for different people, it could be:

  • being called names or teased
  • being pinched, punched, pushed, or pulled
  • being threatened or picked on
  • having your bag and other things thrown around
  • having rumours spread about you
  • being ignored and left out
  • being forced to hand over money or things that belong to you
  • getting silent or abusive phone calls or offensive texts
  • insulting messages about you on the internet
  • using weapons against you

What is online/cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is an increasingly common form of bullying behaviour which happens on social networks, games and mobile phones. Cyberbullying can include spreading rumours about someone, or posting nasty or embarrassing messages, images or videos.

Children may know who's bullying them online – it may be an extension of offline peer bullying - or they may be targeted by someone using a fake or anonymous account. It’s easy to be anonymous online and this may increase the likelihood of engaging in bullying behaviour.

Cyberbullying can happen at any time or anywhere - a child can be bullied when they are alone in their bedroom - so it can feel like there’s no escape. (NSPCC, 2016)

Childline is a great website to get more information and explains what to do if you are being bullied.

'For me' is Childline's brand new app where you can access Childline's online services through your tablet or smartphone. You can use this to have a 1-2-1 chat with a counsellor; access the 'Ask Sam' problem pages; and view the 'Private Locker' - a personal area where young people can track their mood and write down their thoughts.

The police have launched information on being cyber smart which can be found here.

Here are some links to help keep you safe online


Have a wide range of resources for parents/carers about online safety.


Reporting abuse and links to Think-U-Know resources.


Provide resources and advice for online safety.

Facebook's Safety Centre

Advice for teachers and parents/carers.


ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19. You can contact a ChildLine counsellor about anything -no problem is too big or too small.

Childnet International

Information to keep your child safe online

Internet Watch Foundation

Are the UK Hotline for reporting criminal online content; reports are confidential and can be made anonymously.

NSPCC- net aware

A guide to social networks that kids use.

1. Show you care - help them to open up: Give your full attention to the child or young person and keep your body language open and encouraging. Be compassionate, be understanding and reassure them that their feelings are important. Phrases such as 'you have shown such courage today' can really help.

2. Take your time - slow down: Respect pauses and do not interrupt the child - let them go at their own pace. Recognise and respond to their body language. Remember, it may take several conversations for them to share what has happened to them.

3. Show you understand - reflect back: Make it clear that you are interested in what the child is telling you. Reflect back what they have said to check your understanding - and use their language to show it is their experience.

Adult Abuse

The Care Act 2014 defines adult abuse as "being ten main categories of abuse, which are physical; sexual; psychological or emotional; financial or material; discriminatory; neglect and acts of omission; organisational or institutional; domestic violence, modern slavery; and self-neglect.

Further information on types of abuse, spotting the signs and key messages can be found on the SCIE website.