What is abuse and neglect?

What is abuse and neglect?

Abuse and neglect are forms of ill-treatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by not taking action to protect a child from harm. Children may be harmed at home, by people living near their home (in their community) or by an adult who is responsible for caring for them in any place away from home such as school, nursery, college, sports and leisure centres, after-school clubs, youth clubs, which it is really important to work together to keep you safe. Sometimes children are abused by a stranger they have met over the internet. They may also be abused by another child or children.

One in ten adults will have experienced harm during their childhood. Following are some examples of abuse and neglect:

Physical abuse

This could be any physical injury like cuts, bruises, burns, scalds or broken bones that have not happened by accident. Injuries may be caused as a result of shaking or throwing in the case of babies. It can also be when someone deliberately induces illness in a child.

Emotional abuse

This may involve making a child feel constantly worthless or unloved, frightened or in danger. It may include not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them, or making 'fun' of what they say or how they communicate. It may also involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyber bullying) causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children.

Sexual abuse

This is when a child is made or enticed to take part in or watch sexual activities: they may be around when someone is watching pornographic material. Activities may involve physical contact, including assault such as rape or non penetrative acts such as kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. It may also involve looking at, or the production of, sexual images, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child. In most cases sexual abuse is carried out by a person who is known to the child - even a member of their own family.


A child may be left alone or left with unsuitable caregivers. They may not be fed or clothed properly or not be taken to the doctors when they are unwell. Neglect also involves not protecting a child from danger.