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 may get worse over time.
Some kinds of abuse, like child sexual exploitation, radicalisation, modern slavery and cyberbullying can involve all these in combination with other kinds of abuse 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 are breaking the law and will get in trouble if they tell. This is a lie. What actually happens is that 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
If you are being abused, lots of people can help you, but you must tell them. Abuse that seems obvious to you may not be visible to others.
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, 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. Forensic CAMHS supports children whose behaviour is a risk to others. There are also other services and support available.