Sarah's Law - types of child abuse

Protecting and keeping children safe is a priority for us in West Yorkshire.

Child abuse comes in various forms and can affect anyone.  Whether you’re a victim, friend of adult, it’s everyone’s responsibility to help stop the abuse and tell someone.  Even if you’re unsure, you could help save a life.

NSPCC – for advice on the signs and symptoms of child abuse. 

Childline – to report child abuse

Barnardos – to help a child going through abuse


Child neglect

Neglect means failing to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, which is likely to harm their health or development.  It includes failing to provide a child with;

  • Adequate food, clothing or accommodation
  • Protection from physical and emotional harm or danger
  • Access to appropriate medical care or treatment

Neglect can have a long lasting effect on a child’s physical wellbeing and on their mental, emotional and behavioural development.  In some cases the effects can cause permanent disabilities and, in severe cases, death.


Emotional child abuse

Emotional abuse is defined as the ongoing emotional mistreatment of a child, leading to severe negative effects on a child’s emotional development.

This type of abuse may include putting a child down by calling them names, making fun of what they say or do, or not giving them the opportunity to express their views and feelings.  This can affect how a young person feels about themselves and how they fit in with friends at school or where they live.

  • The behaviour signs of someone inflicting emotional abuse can include;
  • A fearful, distant or unaffectionate relationship with a child
  • Ignoring a child or refusing to respond to them
  • Failing to encourage or protect a child
  • Constant negative behaviour towards a child, such as belittling or making threats
  • Isolating a child and preventing normal social interaction or activity
  • Creating fear in a child or intimidating them
  • Encouraging a child to participate in illegal or anti-social behaviour


Physical child abuse

Physical abuse involves harming a child by hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to them.  It can also include deliberately causing illness in a child or young person.  Physical changes to a child’s brain and body may include;

  • Bruising
  • Fractures
  • Burns
  • Bed sores
  • Unexplained weight loss


Child sexual abuse

Sexual abuse involves forcing or encouraging a child to take part in sexual activities and it may not always involved a high level of violence or the child being aware of what is happening.

For many victims, the effects of this type of abuse can continue into adulthood and cause various knock-on issues such as mental health problems.

We urge all members of the public to be aware of adults who pay an unusual amount of attention to a child.  Look out for people giving gifts and seeking opportunities to be alone with a child.  If you are suspicious, trust your instincts and report it.


Tackling child abuse

The consequences of suffering abuse at a young age can have life-changing effects on victims and those around them.

Our Safeguarding Units work with partner agencies in social care, education and health to manage the safety of children and investigate neglect, sexual, physical and emotional abuse.