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Child abuse

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

Child abuse comes in various forms and can affect anyone. Whether you’re a victim, friend or 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.

Report child abuse

You should report suspected child abuseto your local council.

You can report online child sexual abuse content anonymously via the Internet Watch Foundation.

If you think you may be a victim of child abuse or are worried about a child, you should call us on 101.

If a child is at immediate risk of abuse, you should call 999

Child abuse support

For more information on child abuse or if you do not wish to speak to us, please visit;

  • 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 involve 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.

Visit the Sexual Offences Act for more information on the legislation surrounding an adult abusing their position of trust with a child to engage in sexual activity.

Tackling child abuse

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

Our Child Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit (CAISU) work with partner agencies in social care, education and health to manage the safety of children and investigate neglect and sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

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