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You’re concerned that a child is being abused

This advice applies to England

If you’re concerned that a child is being abused, you should report it so that the child can be protected.  This page tells you more about what to do if you’re concerned that a child is being abused.

You may be concerned that your child is being abused by someone:

  • in your own family
  • outside the family, like a teacher, sports coach or babysitter
  • on the internet, for example, you’re concerned that your child is  being groomed or bullied on social media websites.

You may be concerned about a neighbour or a friend's child or that a member of your family is abusing a child.

If it’s your own child who is being abused, you have a legal responsibility to get help to keep your child safe. If you don’t take steps to protect your child, in serious cases the child could be taken away into care.

If you’re a professional coming into contact with children, you have a legal duty to report concerns to social services or the police. You should check the child protection protocols that apply to your workplace.

Otherwise, you don’t have a legal responsibility to report concerns about child abuse.  But remember that taking action can stop the abuse. The child will then be able to get help to recover. Reporting concerns can also lead to the abuser being stopped from abusing other children.

If you suspect abuse

There are many warning signs that a child might be being abused, even if they don’t tell you directly. For more information about the signs that a child is being abused, contact a specialist organisation such as the NSPCC or Stop It Now.

If a child discloses abuse to you

If you think a child is trying to tell you about an abusive situation, it’s important to respond promptly. If a child trusts you enough to tell you about abuse, you must remember that they rarely lie about such things and it’s important that they feel supported – don’t dismiss their claims or put them off talking about it. For more information about how to deal with a child who discloses abuse to you, contact a specialist organisation such as the NSPCC or Stop it Now.

If you’re a victim of domestic abuse

In some cases where a child is being abused, a parent may also be suffering domestic abuse from the abuser.  Also if one parent is being abused by another, this may in itself amount to child abuse, if, for example, the child is seeing or hearing violence or other abuse.  If you’re a woman in this situation, you may want to consider moving with your children to a women's refuge.

Whether you’re a man or a woman suffering from domestic abuse, you may be able to get emergency accommodation from the local authority. Or you could apply to court for an order to:

  • prevent the abuse
  • remove the abuser from the home, whatever  their legal rights to live in the property.

In this situation, the court can also grant an order not to harm a child who’s living with the abused adult who’s applying for the order. To apply for a court order, you’ll need legal advice from a specialist. You may get legal aid.  You should also try to get support from a specialist organisation.

Reporting child abuse

If you want to report an incident or suspicion of abuse, you can contact:

  • the local authority child protection team – even outside normal office hours
  • the police – call 999 in an emergency or otherwise 101
  • the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). This is the UK’s national police agency for dealing with child protection, particularly online abuse. If  you’re  worried about someone’s behaviour towards a child online, you can report this online at www.ceop.police.uk
  • the NSPCC
  • other agencies which come into contact with children, for example, the child’s school, GP or youth worker
  • a specialist organisation like Stop it Now.

If you’re worried about a child, you don’t have to wait until you are certain that they are being abused. You can report your concerns anonymously and they will be listened to and assessed. Action will be taken if the child is considered at risk of harm

What if you don’t have much information?

You should still report your concerns and give any information that could be of help. For example, you may have simply seen the child being abused on the bus, but there might be information that can help, such as the bus route number and where the child got on the bus. All of these details may be useful in helping to identify a child. You may not be the only person who has got in touch with concerns, and every extra detail could help.

Taking direct action against the abuser

If you’re the parent of a child who has been abused, you may want to confront the abuser or take direct action against them. For example, you may want to start a campaign against a worker in a local nursery who is suspected of abusing children. You need to be sure that you have considered all the implications of this option. For example, if the abuser is already being prosecuted, a campaign may have the unwanted result of them being found not guilty. In any case, you may be mistaken and start direct action against someone who didn’t abuse a child. You are strongly advised to talk to a specialist organisation before you take direct action against someone you think has abused a child.

Getting advice and support

If you find out that your child has been abused, as well as taking action to protect the child, it’s very important for you to get support for yourself and for the child from a specialist organisation like the NSPCC or Stop it Now. This is even more important if the abuser is a member of your own family.

You may find it very difficult to deal with the effects of past abuse on the child. For example, a child may be suffering flash-backs, or their behaviour may be difficult to deal with. If this is happening, you could ask the local authority for specialist support, financial help or counselling. The local authority and the health authority both have a legal duty to provide services for the families of children in need, including families where the children are experiencing trauma following abuse.

You may want legal advice about what steps to take as a result of the abuse.  For example, you might want advice about stopping your child’s contact with the person who is abusing them. Contact a specialist solicitor.You might get legal aid.

Next steps

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