(Based on statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ 2018 and Care Act 2014 guidance)
Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child or vulnerable adult by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children or vulnerable adults may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting by those known to them or, more rarely, by others (including via the internet). They may be abused by an adult or adults, or another child or children.
Physical abuse may involve adults or other children inflicting physical harm:
- hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning or suffocating
- giving children or vulnerable adults alcohol or inappropriate drugs
- a parent or carer fabricating the symptoms of, or deliberately inducing, illness in a child or vulnerable adult
- in sport situations, physical abuse might also occur when the nature and intensity of training exceeds the capacity of the child’s immature and growing body.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child or vulnerable adult such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the individual’s emotional development.
It may involve:
- conveying to an individual that they are worthless, unloved or inadequate
- not giving the individual opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate
- imposing expectations which are beyond theindividual’s age or developmental capability
- overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the individual from participating in normal social interaction
- allowing a child to see or hear the ill-treatment of another person
- serious bullying (including cyber bullying), causing individuals frequently to feel frightened or in danger
- the exploitation or corruption of individuals
- emotional abuse in sport might also include situations where parents or coaches subject children to constant criticism, bullying or pressure to perform at a level that the child cannot realistically be expected to achieve.
Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child or vulnerable adult.
Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse involves an individual (male or female, or another child) forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening, to gratify their own sexual needs.
The activities may involve:
- physical contact (eg. kissing, touching, masturbation, rape or oral sex)
- involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images
- encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or watch sexual activities
- grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet)
- sport situations which involve physical contact (eg. supporting or guiding children) could potentially create situations where sexual abuse may go unnoticed.
- Abusive situations may also occur if adults misuse their power and position of trust over young people and vulnerable adults. If you are in any doubt just ask.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child or vulnerable adult’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s or vulnerable adult’s health or development. Neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
- provide adequate food, clothing and shelter
- protect a child or vulnerable adult from physical and emotional harm or danger
- ensure adequate supervision
- ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment
- respond to a child’s or vulnerable adult’s basic emotional needs
- neglect in a sport situation might occur if an instructor or coach fails to ensure that children or
vulnerable adult’s are safe, or exposes them to undue cold or risk of injury.
- Neglect can also be self neglect
Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity in exchange for something the victim needs and wants (eg. attention, money or material possessions, alcohol or drugs), and/or for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation can also occur online without involving physical contact.
Extremism goes beyond terrorism and includes people who target the vulnerable – including the young – by seeking to: sow division between communities on the basis of race, faith or denomination; justify discrimination eg. towards women and girls; persuade others that minorities are inferior; or argue against the primacy of democracy and the rule of law in our society.
Bullying (not included in ‘Working Together’ but probably more common in a sport situation than some of the other forms of abuse described above).
Bullying (including online bullying, for example via text or social media) may be seen as deliberately hurtful behaviour, usually repeated or sustained over a period of time, where it is difficult for those being bullied to defend themselves. The bully is often another young person. Although anyone can be the target of bullying, victims are typically shy, sensitive and perhaps anxious or insecure. Sometimes they are singled out for physical reasons – being overweight or physically small, being gay or lesbian, having a disability or belonging to a different race, faith or culture.
Bullying can include:
- physical pushing, kicking, hitting, pinching etc
- name calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, persistent teasing and emotional torment through ridicule, humiliation or the continual ignoring of individuals
- posting of derogatory or abusive comments, videos or images on social network sites
- racial taunts, graffiti, gestures, sectarianism
- sexual comments, suggestions or behaviour
- unwanted physical
The acronym STOP – Several Times On Purpose – can help you to identify bullying behaviour.
It is not always easy, even for the most experienced carers, to spot when a child or vulnerable adult has been abused. However, some of the more typical symptoms which should trigger your suspicions would include:
- unexplained or suspicious injuries such as bruising, cuts or burns, particularly if situated on a part of the body not normally prone to such injuries
- sexually explicit language or actions
- a sudden change in behaviour (eg. becoming very quiet, withdrawn or displaying sudden outbursts of temper)
- the child or vulnerable adult describes what appears to be an abusive act involving him/her
- a change observed over a long period of time (eg. the child or vulnerable adult losing weight or becoming increasingly dirty or unkempt)
- a general distrust and avoidance of adults, especially those with whom a close relationship would be expected
- an unexpected reaction to normal physical contact
- difficulty in making friends or abnormal restrictions on socialising with others.
It is important to note that a child or vulnerable adult could be displaying some or all of these signs, or behaving in a way which is worrying, without this necessarily meaning that the child or vulnerable adult is being abused. Similarly, there may not be any signs, but you may just feel that something is wrong. If you have noticed a change in the student’s behaviour, first talk to the parents or carers. It may be that something has happened, such as a bereavement, which has caused the student to be unhappy.
If you are concerned
If there are concerns about sexual abuse or violence in the home, talking to the parents or carers might put the child or vulnerable adult at greater risk. If you are worried or concerned consult your organisation’s designated Welfare/Safeguarding Officer or the person in charge. It is this person’s responsibility to make the decision to contact Children’s or Adult’s Social Care Services or the Police. It is NOT their responsibility to decide if abuse is taking place, BUT it is their responsibility to act on your concerns.