Sexual abuse is when any person – whether a parent, care-giver, family member, teacher, family friend, baby sitter or a stranger – involves a child or young person in any kind of sexual activity. This could mean being forced or manipulated into taking part in a sexual act, inappropriate touching or being involved in any kind of sexual behaviour (which may not involve touching). It could happen just once or it might happen repeatedly over a period of time.
Any child in any family could experience sexual abuse – and while girls are more likely to be abused it can happen to boys as well. It’s also true that, while men are much more likely to carry about abuse, sometimes women can be responsible.
As well as sexual abuse – child abuse can take other forms – it can be emotional, physical or it can happen through neglect:
Emotional abuse is when a parent or care-giver doesn’t show love or affection to a child or comfort them when they are scared or anxious. It can also include:
- name-calling and saying things that are hurtful or cruel such as ‘you’re worthless’ or ‘useless’
- controlling or emotionally manipulative behaviour
- constantly punishing a child without real cause
- belittling – making the child feel small or unimportant
Physical abuse is when an adult hurts a child on purpose with the intention of making them feel pain and suffering. This can include hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, cutting, biting or burning. Physical abuse puts a child in immediate danger but can also have lasting effects on their emotional wellbeing as well.
Neglect is when a parent or care-giver fails to look after a child’s basic physical needs. It can mean a child is left alone in a situation that is not safe, or is not kept warm and clean or given enough food to eat.
If you need support for physical or emotional abuse or for neglect experienced as a child – help is available through Leeds domestic violence services.