Child abuse is any action by another person, adult or child, that causes significant harm to a child. It can be physical, sexual or emotional, but can just as often be about a lack of love, care and attention.

Abuse and exploitation are not normal and never ok. If you are in a relationship with someone, you should feel loved, safe, respected and free to be yourself.

There are different forms of abuse. If your relationship leaves you feeling scared, intimidated or controlled, you could be in an abusive relationship.

Child Exploitation (CSE) is a type of abuse in which children are sexually or criminally exploited for money, power or status. Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) is sometimes referred to as 'County Lines' and relates to when a young people is encouraged, cajoled or threatened to carry out crime for the benefit of others. In return they are offered friendship or peer acceptance, but also cigarettes, alcohol or even food and accommodation.

Find out more about Child Exploitation, know how to spot the warning signs and find out where to get help here.


Types of child abuse

  • Online abuse - is any type of abuse that happens on the web, whether through social networks, playing online games or using mobile phones.
  • Sexual abuse - a child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn't have to be physical contact, and it can happen online.
  • Physical abuse - is deliberately hurting a child causing injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns or cuts.
  • Neglect - is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs. It's dangerous and children can suffer serious and long-term harm.
  • Emotional abuse - children who are emotionally abused suffer emotional maltreatment or neglect. It's sometimes called psychological abuse and can cause children serious harm.
  • Child sexual exploitation - is a type of sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status.
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) - is the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
  • Bullying and cyberbullying - bullying can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally.
  • Domestic abuse - witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse, and teenagers can suffer domestic abuse in their relationships.
  • Child trafficking - is a type of abuse where children are recruited, moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work or sold.
  • Grooming - children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional.
  • Harmful sexual behaviour - children and young people who develop harmful sexual behaviour harm themselves and others.


Where can I get help or futher information?

If you think you are suffering abuse you can contact the Police by dialling 101 or 999 in an emergency.

If you would like to speak to someone about these issues freely and confidentially, there are a range of support organisations that can offer information and advice. For further information about local and national support organisations, visit the 'Who can help' pages on this site.

Help for adults concerned about a child

If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact our professional counsellors 24/7 for help, advice and support. Call the NSPCC helpline: 0808 800 5000 or email: [email protected]

Help for children and young people

Call ChildLine on: 0800 1111


Further information




Find support in my area