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What is Child Abuse

What is Child Abuse

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    There are many different forms of child abuse. Abuse can affect a child at any place or time and both children and adults can be the perpetrators. Child abuse usually takes place on several separate occasions over a certain period, but the abuse inflicted can be different every time, can remain consistent or grow severely worse over time. Child abuse can cause serious long-term consequences of trauma and manifest later on in adulthood. The consequences can be detrimental to the victim’s daily life, future relationships, education, career, physical and mental health, behaviour towards people, substance abuse and suicide. 


    When dealing with matters involving local authorities, or the police then we would always suggest you appoint a professional legal representative, Lestons would be honoured to assist you in this matter. Outlined below are the different acts that constitute child abuse. 


    Physical abuse

    Physical abuse is causing deliberate harm to a child through a physical act, with the purpose to hurt the child. In some extreme cases, physical abuse can cause death. 

    Physical abuse can include the following: 

    • Hitting (including spanking, punching, slapping, kicking, shaking, throwing etc);
    • Inhibit breathing (drowning, suffocation, choking etc);
    • Poisoning; 
    • Burning/scolding;
    • Deliberately giving a child drugs/alcohol;
    • Fabricating symptoms of illness or ill health;
    • Inducing an illness on a child;
    • Giving a child medication they do not need;
    • Failure to protect a child; and
    • Inappropriate restraint/false imprisonment.


    Emotional/psychological abuse

    Emotional/psychological abuse can constitute anything that harms a child’s emotional and social development. It should be emphasised that all forms of abuse involve some form of emotional abuse. 


    Emotional abuse can include the following: 

    • Imposing responsibilities on a child which are not appropriate for their age; 
    • Bullying/cyberbullying;
    • Constant and unjust punishment;
    • Persistent and unnecessary criticism/verbal abuse;
    • Humiliations; 
    • Denying love and affection;
    • Terrorising the child;
    • Denying child’s exploration and learning;
    • Not allowing a child to express their views or opinions; and
    • Allowing or encouraging children to witness abuse or violence. 


    Sexual Abuse towards a child

    Child sexual abuse involves coercion or forcing a child to take part in sexual activities or encouraging a child to behave in an inappropriately sexual way. Sexual abuse can take place whether the child is unaware of the nature of what is happening or if they do not protest. Regardless of the threat of violence, it can still be classed as sexual abuse. 


    Sexual abuse can also include the following: 

    • Where a child is made to take part in physical and non-physical sexual activities;
    • Grooming including through the use of technology (e.g., social media, text, phone calls, and video calls);
    • Discussing sexually explicit subjects with child;
    • ‘Sexting’ child or asking a child to send or sexually explicit images of themselves;
    • Creating or showing children sexually explicit pictures/videos of a child;
    • Touching child inappropriately;
    • Any adult exposing themselves to a child;
    • Using children for prostitution; and
    • Female Genital Mutilation (even for religious/cultural purposes). 

    Please note we have a specialist section on sexual abuse later in this section.



    Child Neglect is the persistent and constant failure to meet the basic and essential needs of a child over some time. Neglect can also occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. One in ten children in the UK experiences neglects in their lives. Children are dependent on adults, and if their needs are not taken care of it can result in physical, psychological development being damaged causing detrimental effects to their wellbeing and can have long term consequences. Whether neglect is intentional or not both parents can be found guilty of neglecting a child. 


    Neglect can include the following: 

    • Failure to provide food, shelter, clothing or warmth;
    • Making a child under 18 leave home against their will;
    • Failure to allow access to medical care;
    • Failure to protect a child from both physical and emotional harm;
    • Abandonment;
    • Failure to provide adequate supervision or childcare; or an
    • Unwillingness to provide appropriate care.

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