(Based on the statutory guidance ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ 2015)
Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional or community setting by those known to them or, more rarely, by others (including via the internet). They may be abused by an adult or adults, or another child or children.
Physical abuse may involve adults or other children inflicting physical harm:
• by hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning or suffocating
• giving children alcohol or inappropriate drugs
• in sport situations, physical abuse might also occur when the nature and intensity of training exceeds the capacity of the child’s immature and growing body.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve:
• conveying to a child that they are worthless, unloved or inadequate
• not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate
• imposing expectations which are beyond the child’s age or developmental capability
• overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning or preventing the child from participating in normal social interaction
• allowing a child to see or hear the ill-treatment of another person
• serious bullying (including cyber bullying), causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger
• the exploitation or corruption of children
• emotional abuse in sport might also include situations where parents or coaches subject children to constant criticism, bullying or pressure to perform at a level that the child cannot realistically be expected to achieve.
Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child.
Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse involves an individual (male or female, or another child) forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening, to gratify their own sexual needs. The activities may involve:
• physical contact (eg. kissing, touching, masturbation, rape or oral sex)
• involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images
• encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or watch sexual activities
• grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet)
• sport situations which involve physical contact (eg. supporting or guiding children) could potentially create situations where sexual abuse may go unnoticed.
Abusive situations may also occur if adults misuse their power over young people.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
• provide adequate food, clothing and shelter
• protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger
• ensure adequate supervision
• ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment
• respond to a child’s basic emotional needs
• neglect in a sailing situation might occur if an instructor or coach fails to ensure that children are safe, or exposes them to undue cold or risk of injury.
Bullying (including ‘cyber bullying’ by text, e-mail, social media etc) may be seen as deliberately hurtful behaviour, usually repeated or sustained over a period of time, where it is difficult for those being bullied to defend themselves. The bully may often be another young person. Although anyone can be the target of bullying, victims are typically shy, sensitive and perhaps anxious or insecure. Sometimes they are singled out for physical reasons – being overweight, physically small, having a disability or belonging to a different race, faith or culture.
The acronym STOP – Several Times On Purpose – can help you to identify bullying behaviour.
It is not always easy, even for the most experienced carers, to spot when a child has been abused. However, some of the more typical symptoms which should trigger your suspicions would include:
• unexplained or suspicious injuries such as bruising, cuts or burns, particularly if situated on a part of the body not normally prone to such injuries
• sexually explicit language or actions
• a sudden change in behaviour (eg. becoming very quiet, withdrawn or displaying sudden outbursts of temper)
• the child describes what appears to be an abusive act involving him/her
• a change observed over a long period of time (eg. the child losing weight or becoming increasingly dirty or unkempt)
• a general distrust and avoidance of adults, especially those with whom a close relationship would be expected
• an unexpected reaction to normal physical contact
• difficulty in making friends or abnormal restrictions on socialising with others.
It is important to note that a child could be displaying some or all of these signs, or behaving in a way which is worrying, without this necessarily meaning that the child is being abused. Similarly, there may not be any signs, but you may just feel that something is wrong. If you have noticed a change in the child’s behaviour, first talk to the parents or carers. It may be that something has happened, such as a bereavement, which has caused the child to be unhappy.
If you are concerned
If there are concerns about sexual abuse or violence in the home, talking to the parents or carers might put the child at greater risk. If you cannot talk to the parents/carers, consult Cody Sailing Club’s designated Child Welfare Officer or the person in charge. It is this person’s responsibility to make the decision to contact Children’s Social Care Services or the Police. It is NOT their responsibility to decide if abuse is taking place, BUT it is their responsibility to act on your concerns.