You are here About the Diocese Safeguarding Diocesan Safeguarding Policy and Guidance Section 3. Abuse and Neglect of Children

Section 3. Abuse and Neglect of Children

The abuse of children and young people can take many forms. They have the same right to protection regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation. Children and young people from minority ethnic groups and those with disabilities (physical, sensory and/or learning difficulties) are especially vulnerable and need special care and protection. (For further information, see the Church of England’s Fact Sheet: Types of Abuse.)


A helpful summary from the UK central government document “Working Together to Safeguard Children” categorises and defines child abuse in terms of:

Physical Abuse

Including hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning or suffocating.

Emotional Abuse

Including conveying to a child that they are inadequate, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, verbal abuse, isolation, seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyber bullying).

Sexual Abuse

Including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. It may include involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse.


Including failure to provide adequate food, clothing and shelter, to protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger, to provide adequate supervision and/or access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse.

Domestic Abuse

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) provides definitions of domestic abuse. The definition and Laws surrounding Domestic Abuse may differ from country to country. In the UK, a child witnessing domestic abuse is defined as child abuse. This is because impairment caused by seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another (e.g. witnessing domestic violence or abuse) is included in the definition of ‘harm’ in the UK Children Act 1989 (for more information see the Responding Well to Domestic Abuse Policy and Practice Guidance). Teenagers can suffer domestic abuse in their relationships. The definition and Laws surrounding Domestic Abuse may differ from country to country.

Sexual Exploitation

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse. Children or young people may be tricked into believing they are in a loving, consensual relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed and exploited online. Some children and young people are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Bullying and Cyberbullying

Bullying is behaviour that hurts someone else – such as name calling, hitting, pushing, spreading rumours, threatening or undermining someone. It can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It is usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally. Bullying that happens online, using social networks, games and mobile phones, is often called cyberbullying. A child can feel like there is no escape because it can happen wherever they are, at any time of day or night.

Online Abuse

With the ever-growing use of the internet, mobile telephones and online gaming (e.g. Xbox/PlayStation), there has been a corresponding rise in the use of the internet and other electronic communication to target, groom and abuse children. Adults may target chat rooms, social networking sites, messaging services, mobile phones, online gaming sites and the internet generally. Children are particularly vulnerable to abuse by adults who pretend to be children of comparable ages when online and who try to obtain images or engineer meetings.

Electronic Images

The creating, downloading, keeping or distributing of indecent images of children are all classified as sexual offences. In the UK, such offences are sometimes referred to as non-contact sexual offences. The Laws relating to the downloading, keeping or distributing of indecent images of children will vary from country to country. The work of the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online is one source of further information. It must be remembered that children will have been abused in the making of the images. The texting of sexual messages and photographs (sometimes referred as ‘sexting’) can be particularly problematic and abusive amongst children and young people. (For further information, see Fact Sheet: Sexting.)

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