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Childhood Abuse

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Childhood Abuse

Page written and resources collated by Emily Wheeler, Senior Wellbeing Practitioner

Child abuse is when a child is intentionally harmed by an adult or another child – it can be over a period of time but can also be a one-off action. It can be physical, sexual or emotional and it can happen in person or online. It can also be a lack of love, care and attention – this is neglect.

Physical abuse is when someone hurts or harms a child or young person on purpose. It includes: hitting with hands or object, slapping and punching, kicking, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning and scalding, biting and scratching, breaking bones, drowning.

It's important to remember that physical abuse is any way of intentionally causing physical harm to a child or young person. It also includes making up the symptoms of an illness or causing a child to become unwell.

Emotional abuse is any type of abuse that involves the continual emotional mistreatment of a child. It's sometimes called psychological abuse. Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare, humiliate, isolate or ignore a child. It can often be hard to recognise the signs of this form of abuse.

Sexual abuse is when a child or young person is forced or tricked into sexual activities. They might not understand that what's happening is abuse or that it's wrong. And they might be afraid to tell someone. Sexual abuse can happen anywhere – and it can happen in person or online. It's never a child's fault they were sexually abused – it's important to make sure children know this. There are two types of sexual abuse – contact and non-contact abuse. And sexual abuse can happen in person or online.

Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child or young person's basic needs and the most common form of child abuse. A child might be left hungry or dirty, or without proper clothing, shelter, supervision or health care. This can put children and young people in danger. And it can also have long term effects on their physical and mental wellbeing.

Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. It can seriously harm children and young people and witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse.

Non-recent child abuse, sometimes called historical abuse, is when an adult was abused as a child or young person under the age of 18. Sometimes adults who were abused in childhood blame themselves or are made to feel it’s their fault. But this is never the case: there's no excuse for abuse. You might have known you were abused for a very long or only recently learnt or understood what happened to you. Whether the abuse happened once or hundreds of times, a year or 70 years ago, whatever the circumstances, there's support to help you. It's never too late.

Please note that whilst we hope that all of the resources below are useful, the Student Wellbeing Service does not endorse the opinions expressed by other parties.


Recommended reading

Resource Description
'Behind Closed Doors' by Jenny Tomlin This is the story of how Jenny, her sister Kim and brother Laurence, not only survived but ultimately transcended the unimaginable degradations heaped on them. With the power of love, cunning, the blackest of black humour and an indestructible self-belief, Jenny eventually broke free of her past.
'Breaking free: help for survivors of child sexual abuse' by Caroline Ainscough and Kay Toon This classic book has helped many thousands of people to manage the impact that childhood sexual abuse has had on their lives. The positive and optimistic approach continues to empower survivors to break free from the past.
 The body keeps the score’ by Bessel van der Kolk  The effects of trauma can be devastating for sufferers, their families and future generations. Here one of the world's experts on traumatic stress offers a bold new paradigm for treatment, moving away from standard talking and drug therapies and towards an alternative approach that heals mind, brain and body.
The Courage to heal: a guide for women survivors of child sexual abuse' by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis Based on the experiences of hundreds of child abuse survivors, The Courage to Heal profiles victims who share the challenges and triumphs of their personal healing processes. Inspiring and comprehensive, it offers mental, emotional and physical support to all people who are in the process of rebuilding their lives.
 Healing the shame that binds you’ by John Bradshaw.   Shame is the motivator behind our toxic behaviours: the compulsion, co-dependency, addiction and drive to superachieve that breaks down the family and destroys personal lives. This book has helped millions identify their personal shame, understand the underlying reasons for it, address these root causes and release themselves from the shame that binds them to their past failures.


Self-help materials you can print, or download and save.

Resource Description
Abuse - NHS NTW Self-help Guide Comprehensive Self help guide to abuse
NSPCC The leading U.K. Charity supporting children and young adults affected by Abuse. Online information and a helpline
Women's Aid Work to keep women and children safe and provide lifesaving services t build a future where domestic abuse is not tolerated. a 24 hour helpline, information, advice and links to local resources
Young Minds - Mental Health Charity Online support explaining what abuse is, why you must get help and where to find it. Helplines, messenger service, information for survivors.

Places to get help

Local and national organisations, websites

Resource Description
National Association for People abused in Childhood (NAPAC) NAPAC's trained staff speak with survivors of any type of childhood abuse over the phone, exploring the options available to them such as support groups and counselling to help empower callers to move forward. Calls are confidential, free from UK landlines and mobiles and can me made anonymous. NAPAC also supports family members, friends and professionals who are helping someone who was abused, advising them on who else can help. The NAPAC website provides a wealth of information and advice, including a postcode searchable database which lists local trusted organisations who can offer free or low-cost on-going support.
Survivors U.K - Male Rape and Sexual Abuse Support If you have been subjected to male rape or sexual abuse, one of your biggest challenges will be taking the decision to talk to someone. Survivors UK know this can seem an enormous and daunting step. Anxiety and fear are among the most common emotions experienced by the abused. Survivors U.K. offer emotional support by our Chat Service and SMS and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction..
The Survivor's Trust Rape and sexual abuse can happen to anyone regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, culture or social status. Living with the consequences of rape and sexual abuse can be devastating. Survivors are entitled to receive the best possible response to their needs whether or not they choose to report.

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