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What is abuse

Abuse is any action taken by another person that causes harm or distress. This can be physical or mental. Find details below of the different kinds of abuse, and don’t forget to speak to someone if you think you are being abused or may be at risk. 

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is when a grown up gives a child or young person something like gifts, money or affection as a result of performing sexual activities or others performing sexual activities on them. 

 Children or young people may be tricked into believing they are in a loving relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed online. 

 Some children & young people are trafficked into or within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs. Get more information on young people and gangs from the NSPCC.

For more information about child sexual exploitation in the West Midlands visit the West Midlands Violence Reduction Unit website.

Child trafficking is when children are taken away from their home or family and then sold to another grown up, forced to work or do something else they did not choose to do. 

Children can be trafficked for: 

  • child sexual exploitation 
  • benefit fraud 
  • forced marriage 
  • domestic servitude such as cleaning, childcare, cooking 
  • forced labour in factories or agriculture 
  • criminal activity such as pickpocketing, begging, transporting drugs, working on cannabis arms, selling pirated DVDs, bag theft. 

Many children are trafficked into the UK from abroad, but children can also be trafficked from one part of the UK to another. 

Get more information about trafficking from the NSPCC.

Sometimes young people in gangs feel they don’t have choices and have to do what’s expected of them from other gang members, be it sexual or illegal. 

If you’re in a gang and you’re being pressured or expected to engage in any activity you don’t want to do, seek help here or contact Childline to speak to a trained advisor who understands the pressures of being involved in a gang.

Domestic violence & abuse is when a grown-up threatens, bullies or hurts another adult in the family. Sometimes it’s called domestic violence and it can happen in any family. It can be very hard to deal with but remember that it is never your fault. 

Some people use emotional abuse to control people. These signs can be more difficult to spot, but could include: 

  • Getting angry when you want to spend time with your friends 
  • Isolating you from friends and family 
  • Threatening to spread rumours about you 
  • Saying things like “If you loved me you would…” 
  • Putting you down all the time, using names like ‘frigid’ or ‘slut’ to control what you do, humiliate you and destroy your self-esteem 
  • Trying to control your life (telling you how to dress, who you hang out with and what you say) 
  • Threatening to harm you or to self–harm if you leave them 
  • Demanding to know where you are all the time 
  • Monitoring your calls and emails, threatening you if you don’t respond instantly 
  • Getting really angry, really quickly 
  • Using force during an argument 
  • Blaming others for their problems or feelings 
  • Being verbally abusive 
  • Using threatening behaviour towards others 
  • Pressuring you to send them nude pictures 
  • If someone is lesbian, gay, bi or transgender and not ‘out’, their partner might threaten to ‘out’ them if they don’t do what they want. 

You can find out more at NSPCC.

The Childline charity describes Female Genital Mutilation (also called FGM) as female circumcision, cutting or sunna – Which is when a girl’s external genitals (private parts) are cut away. This is abuse and it is illegal in the UK.  

Because forced marriage is illegal it often happens in secret and can also be planned by parents, family or religious leaders. It may involve physical abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse.

Sometimes young people in gangs feel they don’t have choices and have to do what’s expected of them from other gang members, be it sexual or illegal. 

If you’re in a gang and you’re being pressured or expected to engage in any activity you don’t want to do, seek help here or contact Childline  to speak to a trained advisor who understands the pressures of being involved in a gang.

Neglect is when the people who are supposed to be looking after you such as your parents or carers (including foster carers and family friends) don’t take care of you or provide you with the things you need. They may also make it hard for you to take care of yourself. This is neglect. 

Neglect could include:

  • Frequently going hungry
  • Having to go to school in dirty clothes 
  • Not being taken to the doctors when you are ill 
  • Being left at home regularly and for long periods of time 
  • Living in dangerous, possibly violent surroundings with drugs or alcohol around 

Peer-on-peer abuse is any form of physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and/or coercive control exercised between children and young people; this includes intimate and non-intimate relationships. 

This abuse can:

  • Be motivated by perceived differences e.g. on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other differences 
  • Result in significant, long-lasting and traumatic isolation, intimidation or violence to the victim; vulnerable adults are at particular risk of harm 

If you are worried or want to learn more about Peer on Peer abuse please contact Childline.

Physical abuse is when someone deliberately hurts you. Some people use violence to force someone to do something or threaten to use it to control them. It could include: 

  • Hitting 
  • Punching 
  • Kicking 
  • Slapping 
  • Pushing someone against a wall and refusing to let them go 
  • Holding somebody down 

No one has the right to hurt you. Physical abuse can take place once or over a long period of time. It is not right and you need to tell someone. 

Radicalisation is when someone starts to believe or support extreme views. Normally they are groomed to do this. They are often pressured to do things by someone else. Or they might change their behaviour and beliefs.

Abuse is not normal and never ok. If you are in a relationship with someone, you should feel loved, safe, respected and free to be yourself. 

So when we’re talking about relationship abuse, we mean unacceptable behaviour between two people. You don’t have to be an ‘official’ couple to experience abuse and it doesn’t matter what your relationship looks like; gay, straight or bi, or whether you’re a girl, boy or have another gender identity. 

To learn more about relationship abuse visit Disrespect NoBody.

Sexual abuse is when someone is pressurised, forced, tricked or intimidated into taking part in any kind of sexual activity with an adult or another young person. 

This can include kissing, touching the young person’s genitals (private parts) or breasts, intercourse or oral sex, looking or taking part in pornography or being pressured not to use contraception. It can happen to anyone – boys and girls.  

Forcing someone to do any sexual acts they don’t want to is rape or sexual assault. This kind of abuse can sometimes happen in relationships. 

If you recognise any of the signs of abuse in your own relationship, you can get help here.

If you are being sexually abused it’s not your fault and you’re not alone – tell someone.