Abuse is against the law. If you or someone you know is being hurt or abused by an adult then that adult is breaking the law.
Adults who abuse children always tell them that they should not ask for help. They might say things like no-one will care, or no-one will believe the abuse is happening or that people know already and approve.
Report the abuse. Ask for help. If you need to, keep reporting and asking for help until you get it.
Crucial: It's NOT your fault. If abuse is happening, you are not to blame for what's going on.
What is abuse?
There are four main kinds of abuse:
- Physical abuse – someone hurts your body by hitting, kicking, punching, burning, or tying you up.
- Neglect – someone ignores your needs for food, warmth, medical care, safety and emotional well-being.
- Sexual abuse – someone forces or puts pressure on you to have sex, or sexual acts like kissing or touching which makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Emotional abuse – such as humiliation, making you feel worthless, constant criticism and withholding love and affection.
A young person who is being abused might experience some of these or only one. In most cases the abuser will sometimes be abusive and at other times be kind.
Abusers may try to make excuses by saying that it didn’t mean anything, it won’t happen again, or that it’s your fault. They may promise, give you gifts, or try to make it up to you. They may stop, for a while.
But it is very unusual for an abuser to stop abusing someone once they start. Without help and support, the abuse will usually continue, and get worse over time.
Instant Expert: Although it is one of the most dangerous and harmful kinds of abuse, Neglect can be hard for people to recognise. Sometimes this is because it happens as part of another big crisis, like a parent being depressed or having a drug or alcohol problem, or being in trouble with the law. Sometimes it is because it is hard for people to see a parent not doing something for a child, and understand the damage that this is causing. But neglect is very serious. Not talking to a baby can cause serious learning difficulties. Not teaching a child to wash themselves or clean their teeth can cause serious health problems. Not providing a child with safe opportunities to meet people, talk through their feelings, play and learn can cause serious emotional problems. Not supervising a child properly can leave them in serious danger, even when they are a teenager. Find out more about Neglect from the NSPCC.
Complex forms of Abuse
Some kinds of abuse, like child sexual exploitation, radicalisation, modern slavery, female genital mutilation, Fabricated or Induced Illness and cyberbullying are sometimes called complex. But they usually involve one or more of the four main kinds of abuse, sometimes combined with other abuses like financial abuse and grooming. Criminal Exploitation can also happen, where adults groom children to help them commit crimes like theft and dealing.
Crucial: Adults who are abusing children often tell the child that they will get in trouble if they tell anybody because they are breaking the law. This is a lie. If a child tells someone that abuse is happening then action will be taken to stop the abuse and support the child to recover, even if they have done something illegal.
Tell someone what is going on
When a person is being abused, they usually find it hard to tell anybody. This can be because of feelings, like being afraid or ashamed, or for practical reasons like there not being a good time. Most people are also worried that they will not be believed.
If abuse is happening, then it can be stopped more quickly if you tell people what is happening. This helps the abuse be identified clearly - abuse that seems obvious to you may not be visible to others. It can also help you feel better, because you are making a positive action to stop the abuse.
You need to tell someone:
- So the abuse can stop
- So you can get help and recover fully
- So that the abuser cannot abuse another person
- So that the abuser can get the help they need to stop abusing
Crucial: In some cases the abuser may be someone you want to carry on seeing, for example if they hurt you while they had a illness, or a breakdown. You need to be safe, but where possible your wishes in this will be respected.
Who can I tell?
Many young people start by telling a trusted family member or by contacting Childline on 0800 1111.
But you can also tell a trusted adult at your school, or another place. These people have been trained, and will know what to say and do to help you:
- A teacher, sports coach, or other trusted adult
- A GP or the school health nurse
- A Social Worker, Link Worker, Family Worker or Youth Worker
- Anybody at a Children and Family Centre
You can also:
- Contact Childline free and confidential on 0800 1111
- Report Child Abuse on the Oxfordshire County Council website
Crucial: Call the police on 999 if you or anyone else is in immediate danger. You can also call 101 or report a crime on the Thames Valley Police website, if it is not an emergency.
Abused by someone my own age?
Where the person abusing you is another child (someone aged under 18) you still need to report the abuse. Both of you will be helped. The person who did the abusing will be supported to understand the impact of their behaviour and change. The young person who suffered the abuse will be supported to recover and heal. This is true even if something illegal or very dangerous has happened. Anyone who is aware of the abuse can talk to a trusted adult or make a report.
Services that can help: The Horizon team provides specialist support for young people who have experienced sexual harm. Find out more about their service and how to get referred. SAFE helps young Victims of Crime, including those who have suffered abuse. Oxfordshire CAMHS supports children whose behaviour is a risk to others. There are also other services and support available. No matter what has happened, someone will be able to help.