Safeguarding policies are put into place in schools and doctors and places where children attend, they are policies that aim to protect children from harm and abuse and set out what staff should do if they have concerns about a child.
Physical abuse is the act of deliberately hurting a someone by hitting, kicking, poisoning, burning, slapping, throwing objects, shaking or fabricating illness. The physical indicators of physical abuse are the injuries we can see, there are injuries that indicate different types of abuse and are differentiated by where the injuries are and how they were made.
- Unexplained bruising in unusual places, by unusual places we mean bruising that wouldn’t usually occur by falling down or bumping into furniture, such as the stomach, upper rib cage, under arms, back, face and neck. You wouldn’t usually see bruising under the arms on a child from falling down, they are more likely to be on the elbows, kneecaps or shins.
- Multiple bruises at different stages of healing, by this we mean if there are frequent bruises on a child that are different colours, this indicates that the bruises are being inflicted over a period of time and not just in one single occurrence, which would indicate physical abuse.
- Fingertip bruises are called so because they outline where a hand has grabbed the skin with enough force to bruise it. They are fairly identifiable because the bruise left by the thumb is thumb distance away from the other fingertip bruises.
- Unexplained and untreated burns or scalds would indicate physical abuse on children because it is unlikely for parents to let a scald or burn go untreated on their child because they are very painful, unless it was intentionally inflicted.
- Unexplained or untreated fractures are an indicator of physical abuse because fractures are likely to hinder a child’s physical performance, such a fracture of a bone in the foot would affect the child’s walking. Such injuries are unlikely to go unnoticed by parents, and if they have gone untreated this would indicate physical abuse, along with the injuries being unexplained or being incompatible with explanations.
- Hair loss caused by trauma or stress could be an indicator of physical abuse, but it could also be caused by other traumas and stresses so you can’t jump to physical abuse when noticing hair loss on a child.
The behavioural indicators of physical abuse are the way in which people act when they are being abused, behaviours that cause concern.
- Children who are being abused or have suffered abuse can sometimes be withdrawn. This means quiet, not joining in, not playing and being over compliant. Sitting silently without moving, not looking at people when they’re talking to them, talking very quietly when they have to. Being withdrawn could lead to poor social skills because they aren’t interacting with other children or activities.
- Children can also be very aggressive, this could be because it is all they know how to behave like with other people because it is all they see at home, if a child is being smacked all the time whenever they have a disagreement with another child, or for any reason they will copy that behaviour and smack the child.
- A child being unusually fearful such as flinching when a teacher holds up their hands as part of an activity, flinching as a natural instinct to thinking they are about to be hit which indicates they have been or are being hit frequently.
Sexual abuse on a child is when they are made to participate in sexual activities, they could be forced or talked into it because they are vulnerable and may not understand that what they are being asked to do is wrong. Sexual abuse doesn’t have to be physical activities either it could happen online, over the phone, in conversation when they are talked to inappropriately, asked to take inappropriate pictures of themselves.
- With very young babies a physical indicator of sexual abuse is when they show distress when getting their nappies changed. Because babies so young can’t communicate in words when somewhere hurts all they can do is cry.
- Pain or discomfort can indicate sexual abuse because sexual activities on underdeveloped genitals can cause infections, rips and tears. Infections can cause discomfort when passing urine.
- Bruising on the inner thighs, scratch marks and bites on areas like the neck, thighs, breasts, buttocks, genital area and lower abdomen indicates sexual abuse because they are areas associated with sexual activity.
- Showing discomfort when trying to sit down can indicate sexual abuse when genitals are sore and tender, it can also affect a child’s ability to walk without pain.
- Children who have experienced sexual abuse can suffer from nightmares and not being able to sleep well, this is an indicator of sexual abuse because they are showing fear, possibly reliving the abuse in their dreams.
- Sometimes children who have experienced sexual abuse feel that giving adults inappropriate attention, seeking their attention with their inappropriate behaviour because they feel that is how to please them. This could manifest in ways like having to be physically close to someone all the time, needing their attention to be fixed on them, moving in ways that are inappropriate and acting compulsively.
- Children who have experienced or are experiencing sexual abuse can act destructively and anti-socially. This could be a way of protecting themselves from the attentions of others.
- Children who have experienced sexual abuse can find it difficult to connect with other children and can’t maintain relationships because they feel they have done adult things, that other children wouldn’t understand. This could also be because they have low self-esteem because they don’t want other children to know about it.
- A fear of going home would indicate sexual abuse, like not wanting to leave school because they’re afraid that they will be abused when they go home.
- Children who have experienced sexual abuse, especially younger children who don’t understand they are being abused will talk about inappropriate sexual knowledge, knowing the terms for different sexual activities and describing how they are done. It could also manifest in play, with dolls or toys when children point out genitals on a toy and make the toys act out sexual activities.
Neglect is when a child’s basic needs are not met frequently, such as not being fed, not being bathed, not being dressed adequately like not having a coat in cold weather, not having clothes that fit them. Not being talked to, being ignored that could harm their development as could malnourishment. Not being taken to the doctors when they need to.
- Poor hygiene is an indicator of neglect, when children are attending school with unwashed hair, looking grubby and unclean. This would attract the attention of other children which could lead to bullying.
- When children are wearing clothes that don’t fit them this could indicate they don’t have clothes to fit, haven’t been provided with them. Their clothes could be ripped, dirty, unwashed and smell. This would also attract the attention of other children in school and lead to bullying. When children aren’t wearing coats or appropriate clothes for the weather conditions could also indicate neglect. It could be that parents aren’t washing the clothes or providing clothes that fit, or essential pieces of clothing like underwear and coats and it could also indicate that children are being let to dress themselves.
- Underweight children could indicate neglect because they aren’t getting the nourishment they need for their development.
- Frequent and worsening or untreated nappy rash on babies and toddlers could indicate neglect, it could indicate that the children’s nappies aren’t being changed at home regularly and they’re being left on to develop nappy rash which is painful for children.
- Untreated medical problems could indicate neglect, such as a child having a chest infection and not getting antibiotics from the doctors for it, this indicates neglect because the child isn’t getting the medical help they need and it is the parent’s responsibility to get them it.
- Children who are regularly late or absent from school indicates neglect because parent’s have a legal responsibility to take their children to school. It could be that the children don’t want to go to school because they are being bullied because their school uniforms are dirty, their hair is unwashed or they smell.
- Children who are withdrawn and difficult to get involved in activities indicate neglect, it could be that they are not stimulated at home, they have poor social skills because they are ignored at home and they are shy and withdrawn because they don’t get attention usually so when they are getting attention such at school they don’t know how to react. For these reasons they could also have low self-esteem and confidence.
- Children who are indiscriminately affectionate which means asking strangers to pick them up, talking to anyone, hugging other children and adults they don’t know indicate neglect because it is a trait that children who don’t get affection at home have, because they don’t receive it at home they look for it at every opportunity.
Emotional abuse is making a child feel worthless and useless by constantly telling them they are, deliberately humiliating them, isolating them or ignoring them. It could be bullying children such as name calling, making them feel frightened, afraid or in danger. Emotional abuse can affect a child’s development massively. There can’t be physical indicators of emotional abuse like there is with sexual and physical abuse or neglect but the behavioural indicators of emotional abuse can also show us the effects the abuse is having on a child’s development.
- Children who are isolated and ignored often seek attention elsewhere such as in school, the attention seeking could manifest in various ways like frequently telling teachers they don’t feel well or have a headache so they can get attention off the first aid person, asking for help with work they don’t necessarily need because they could do it on their own. This ties in with telling lies as well such as making up stories that didn’t happen.
- Children who experience emotional abuse sometimes have an inability to have fun because they are suffering from depression or anxiety and low-self-esteem.
- Children can also have inappropriate tantrums; this could be a cry out for attention or a way of relieving the feelings they’re having such as frustration.
- Children who are emotionally abused by being ignored and isolated and not shown affection could develop speech disorders. This could be because they receive little or no attention or affection or interaction at home.
- Some children show fear of making mistakes because they are afraid to be ridiculed for it, such as not wanting to answer questions because they’re scared their answer is wrong, not wanting to join in sports in case they’re shouted at or blamed for conceding a goal for example.
- Some children self-harm when being emotionally abused, they feel it is a way of letting out some feelings. They aren’t physically being hurt yet they still feel pain, but it is in a way they can’t fully comprehend or deal with, when they physically self-harm themselves, they at least can understand that pain.
- A reluctance to go home can indicate emotional abuse because it’s not a nice place for them to be, they’d rather be somewhere else.
Witnessing domestic violence is child abuse, domestic violence is when there is controlling behaviour, bullying, physical violence or violent behaviour between two people in a relationship. Domestic abuse also includes emotional, sexual, financial or psychological abuse. Witnessing it can be very detrimental for young people and children, and teenagers can also suffer from domestic abuse.
- Witnessing domestic violence can emotionally harm children because they are watching their parent being physically or otherwise harmed and feel helpless.
- Children are often asked to lie about injuries on the parent that is being abused, this effects a child psychologically because they may carry that on into their adult lives.
- Growing up with domestic violence can make a child predisposed to enter into a violent relationship when they are older or be the abuser themselves.
- During episodes of domestic violence, it is not unusual for children to get caught up in it, trying to protect their parent and get caught in the firing line, they can receive physical abuse meant for the parent they are trying to protect.