Abuse of children

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What is abuse?

Child abuse is any action by another person, adult or child, that causes significant harm to a child. The abuse may be any form of physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that leads to injury or harm.

Abuse (also called Significant Harm) can happen to a child at any age. Abusers can be adults but not just parents or carers, abuse often occurs within a relationship of trust e.g. a teacher, carer, family friend or youth leader.

It can be physical, sexual or emotional, but can just as often be about a lack of love, care and attention. We know that neglect, whatever form it takes, can be just as damaging to a child as physical abuse.

ICON is a new campaign which aims to help parents and carers to cope with a crying baby.

A baby’s cry can be upsetting and frustrating. It is designed to get your attention and you may be worried that something is wrong with your baby.

Not every baby is easy to calm but that doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong. Don’t get angry with your baby or yourself. Instead, put your baby in a safe place and walk away so that you can calm yourself down by doing something that takes your mind off the crying.

For more advice and support speak with your midwife, health visitor or GP.

ICON leaflet.pdf

  • Physical abuse
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    Physical abuse is deliberately causing physical harm to a child. This might involve punching, kicking, biting, burning, scalding, shaking, throwing or beating with objects such as belts, whips, or sticks. It also includes poisoning, giving a child alcohol or illegal drugs, drowning or suffocation.

    Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of illness in a child. 

    In pregnancy an unborn child can be harmed by domestic abuse.

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  • Emotional abuse
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    Emotional abuse is where repeated verbal threats, criticism, ridicule, shouting, lack of love and affection causes a severe adverse effect on a child's emotional development. It includes conveying to children that they are worthless, unloved, inadequate or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person.

    Emotional abuse may include not giving a child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or 'making fun' of what they say or how they communicate. It may feature inappropriate expectations being imposed on a child, over protection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child from taking part in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another person as in domestic abuse. It may involve serious bullying (including cyberbullying), causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.

    Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of children, or it may occur alone. Children who are emotionally abused suffer emotional maltreatment or neglect. It’s sometimes called psychological abuse and can cause children serious harm.

  • Neglect
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    Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in serious impairment of the child's health or development. Neglect is when a parent or carer fails to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment), medical care, or protection from physical and emotional harm or danger. It also includes failure to ensure access to education or to look after a child because the carer is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In pregnancy neglect may occur as a result of misusing alcohol or drugs.

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  • Sexual abuse
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    A child or young person is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. This may involve physical contact including penetrative sex, oral sex, masturbation, kissing, rubbing, or touching outside of clothing, or it may involve non-contact activities such as involving children in watching sexual activities, producing or looking at sexual images, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse and it can happen online. Abusers can be men, women or other children. 

    Sexual abuse also comes in many forms including Sexual Exploitation and Female Genital Mutilation.

  • Sexual exploitation
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    Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status. this illegal activity is done my people who have power over young people and use it to sexually abuse them. This can involve a broad range of exploitative activity, from seemingly ‘consensual’ relationships and informal exchanges of sex for attention, accommodation, gifts or cigarettes, through to very serious organised crime.

  • Female Genital Mutilation
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    Female genital mutilation (FGM) is any procedure which involves the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for no medical reason. 

    Many believe that FGM is necessary to ensure acceptance by their community, however this custom is against the law in the UK and many other countries. 

    All types of FGM are illegal in the UK; it is an offence to take a female out of the UK for FGM or for anyone to circumcise women or children for cultural or non-medical reasons here in the UK.

  • Forced marriage
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    Forced marriage is when you face physical pressure to marry (for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (eg if you’re made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family).

    A forced marriage is different from an arranged marriage.

    Sometimes an arranged marriage can lead to a forced marriage. For example, if you agree to marry someone but then change your mind and decide not to.

    If your parents or family don’t accept your decision and still make you go ahead with the marriage, this becomes a forced marriage.

  • Child trafficking and modern day slavery
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    Child trafficking is a type of abuse where children are recruited, moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work or sold. Unicef works with governments throughout the world to stop the estimated 1.2 million children trafficked world wide each year.

    Modern day slavery is not an issue from history or confined to certain countries. It is a global problem including the UK and is still happening today. The National government passed an act in 2015 and there was an awareness campaign. This was all about slavery and how we can all help stop it.

  • Grooming
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    Children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional.

    Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation.

    Children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional.

    Groomers may be male or female. They could be any age. Many children and young people don't understand that they have been groomed, or that what has happened is abuse.

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  • Radicalisation
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    The NSPCC has help and advice for parents who think their child may be in danger. The NSPCC Chief Executive has said: "Our mission is to keep children safe from harm. We are contacted daily by worried parents and children themselves on all sorts of issues including radicalisation and dangers associated with extremism. Grooming online or in person is a classic technique used by abusers to exploit vulnerable young people. Spotting the signs of such abuse has never been more important if we are to help protect children from sexual exploitation, gang related activity or other hate crimes'.

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  • Harmful sexual behaviour
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    Children and young people who develop harmful sexual behaviour harm themselves and others.

    Consent means agreeing to do something. When it comes to sex, this means someone agreeing to take part in a sexual activity.

    As a parent it can feel awkward talking to your child about sexual consent; however it is important to have the conversation to help your child have healthy sexual behaviour.

    Many young people are unclear that consent is something that needs to be sought and given even in an intimate relationship. It is very important that your teenager understands that both people in a sexual relationship must agree to it and can change their mind and withdraw at any time if they want to stop.

    Your child needs to understand that consent is not just about saying 'yes' or ‘no’; many of the signs that a person is uncomfortable with something are non-verbal and it is important that teenagers look out for these signs. Such as; someone turning away from you, looking frightened or nervous, tensing up and pushing you away etc. 

    Sexual consent is something that has to be ‘got’ (received) as well as ‘given’.

    If someone is drunk, drugged, un-conscious, or has been threatened or bullied then they cannot consent to sexual contact or activity, and sex without consent is rape.

    The age of sexual consent in the UK is 16, so sex with any boy or girl under 16 is unlawful whether or not both people have given their consent. A child under the age of 13 cannot consent to sex.

    There is lots of help available for parents and carers who might be worried about how to talk about sexual consent with their children. The NSPCC Healthy Sexual Behaviour is a guide to keeping children safe and what to do if you're worried.

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Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)
T: 0161 770 7777

All content © 2023 Oldham Safeguarding Children Partnership

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