Abuse - guidance for young people

What abuse is, and how to get help.

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No one has the right to hurt you, whether it is members of your family, acquaintances, strangers or people your own age (also see bullying). You have a right to be cared for in a way that does not harm you physically or emotionally. It does not matter if you are living with your parents, are in further education, a member of the armed forces, in hospital, prison or a young offenders institution.

Child abuse is when anyone under 18 is being harmed or isn't being looked after properly. Sometimes a young person can be abused by a stranger or by another young person, but usually they know the person who is hurting them or making them do things that they should not. They can be abused anywhere; at home, at school, a local sport centre or after school club. Sometimes someone else knows what is happening, but they don't stop it. This is wrong too! 

Types of abuse

Find out about the different types of abuse:

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is when someone hurts a young person on purpose. There are many forms of physical abuse:

The most common types of physical abuse include:

  • Hitting
  • Punching
  • Shaking
  • Throwing
  • Poisoning
  • Burning
  • Scalding
  • Drowning
  • Suffocating
  • Making a young person ill

It Follows Me Around - A child's physical abuse story from ChildLine.

Lots of young people experience physical abuse. It can be at the hands of their mum or dad, sister or brother, a boyfriend or girlfriend. It may happen only on the odd occasion, like when someone has been drinking, but this is still very wrong.

It is important to remember that it is never your fault. It doesn't matter if you have done something to upset someone, they should never hurt you.

If you are living with someone who is abusive you might be worried about:

  • Your brothers and sisters, or your other parent getting hurt
  • When it will happen next
  • Your abuser getting in trouble
  • That you will have to go in to care

There are people you can talk to about any of these things. You can call the WSCP on 020 8871 6622 (after 5pm weekdays or on weekends: 020 8871 6000) or call Childline on 0800 1111.

If you are worried about a friend then you should try and talk to them. You should encourage them to call Childline or speak to a teacher or another trusted adult.

The Childline website offers more information on physical and other types of abuse, and provides more contact information.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when a boy or girl is told, asked or forced to take part in sexual activities. It does not matter if they know what is happening, or not.

There are different ways in which a young person can be sexually abused. Some examples are:

  • Having someone touch their private parts
  • Making them touch someone else's private parts
  • Involving them in the making of films, videos or DVDs or taking photos and videos on mobile phones that involve sexual activity
  • Making them watch sexual behaviour, or
  • Making them do sexual things either to themselves or with other people

Being sexually abused is a horrible thing to happen and can leave you feeling frightened and confused. But please remember, it is not your fault, never blame yourself for what happened.

It is important that you talk to someone if any thing happens to you. You can call the WSCP on 020 8871 6622 (after 5pm weekdays or on weekends: 020 8871 6000) or call Childline on 0800 1111. Here's a video about calling Childline.

If you are worried about a friend then you should try to talk to them. You should encourage them to call Childline or speak to a teacher or another trusted adult.

The Childline website offers more information on sexual and other types of abuse, and provides more contact information.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is when someone does or says something to make you feel sad, scared or bad about yourself.

It could be your parents, siblings, teachers or people your own age who abuse you emotionally. It is even possible the person, or people, making you feel this way do not know what they are doing, but this does not mean it is not abuse.

This type of abuse does not leave scars and bruises on the outside so people do not always see that you need help. Be sure to speak to someone if you feel that what is being done to you needs to stop.

Examples of emotional abuse are:

  • Being constantly told you are wrong or not good enough
  • Being unfairly blamed for everything all the time
  • Being told that you are stupid
  • Being made to feel unhappy
  • Being called nasty names
  • Being told you should never have been born
  • Being told to do tasks you are not old enough or can not really do
  • Seeing or hearing someone from home being hurt by another member of the family (domestic violence)
  • Being bullied
  • Being made to feel frightened or in danger.
  • Being over protected, like not being allowed to ever play or go out.

Words Can Hurt - Verbal abuse and emotional abuse video from ChildLine.

There are people you can talk to about any of these things. You can call the WSCP on 020 8871 6622 (after 5pm weekdays or on weekends: 020 8871 6000) or call Childline on 0800 1111.

If you are worried about a friend then you should try to talk to them. You should encourage them to call Childline or speak to a teacher or another trusted adult.

The Childline website offers more information on emotional and other types of abuse, and provides more contact information.

Neglect

Neglect is when a young person is not being looked after properly and their very basic needs are not met.

This could result in their health or growth being damaged. These 'very basic needs' include:

  • Food
  • Shelter (a safe place to stay/roof over your head)
  • Safety in the home
  • Not being left alone in dangerous situations
  • Proper clothing
  • Good cleanliness (being allowed to wash/bath often enough)
  • Being kept warm
  • More help for vulnerable children
  • Medical treatment if necessary
  • Protection from physical and emotional harm or danger.

Wants and Needs - a video about emotional abuse from Childline.

Neglect is when you aren't getting any or some of the things above. For example: 

  • You may be left alone to care for other people too often
  • You are not looked after when you are not well
  • You do not have clothes that fit you or keep you warm
  • You don't get the support you need from the person who looks after you
  • You aren't given enough, or the right type of food
  • You may be left alone for a long time, or left alone with people you don't trust
  • You are left with nowhere to stay

There are people you can talk to about any of these things. You can call the WSCB on 020 8871 6622 (after 5pm weekdays or on weekends: 020 8871 6000) or call Childline on 0800 1111.

If you are worried about a friend then you should try to talk to them. You should encourage them to call Childline or speak to a teacher or another trusted adult.

The Childline website offers more information on neglect and other types of abuse, and provides more contact information. 

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a form of child abuse common to some African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities in the UK.

This illegal and very dangerous initiation ritual can leave young victims in agony and with physical and mental problems that can continue into adulthood.

Sometimes the young person can be taken out of the country or it can happen at home. Either way it is usually carried out in secret and often without anaesthetic, it involves the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs. The procedure can cause:

  • Severe pain
  • Shock
  • Bleeding
  • Onfections such as tetanus, HIV as well as hepatitis B and C
  • Organ damage

Victims are usually aged between four and ten, but some are babies.

Childline provides more information and answers questions you may have about FGM. You can also contact Childline on 0800 028 3550 for information and support if you know of someone or have been a victim of FGM.

More information from the Wandsworth Family Information Service.