Child abuse or neglect, in any form, can devastate childhoods and its impact can last well into adulthood if the relevant support is not received. Sadly, our trained helpline counsellors hear testimony from adults who have not felt able to disclose childhood abuse for so long, for so many reasons. They didn’t feel they would be believed, that in some way they deserved this or invited it. Let us be clear; child abuse or neglect is never the child’s fault.

As adults we all have a part to play, looking out for children wherever we are – as we go about our working lives or for those in our local neighbourhood, for example. Record numbers of people, concerned for a child, have been calling the NSPCC’s helpline during the pandemic, with children both more vulnerable and out of sight of people who can keep them safe.

But as adults the thought of a child disclosing abuse to us, or reporting concerns we may have for a child, can be daunting. That feeling of not wanting to get it wrong or make it worse can be scary but it is crucial that whatever we do, we don’t dismiss them, and instead listen. Whilst it can be distressing to hear that a child is being abused, it is important to remain calm and listen. They might be worried about the consequences, they may have suffered threats of violence from their abuser if they tell anyone. All too often the abuser is someone known to them, or someone they love and they may not want to get them into trouble. A lot of children who disclose abuse say they worry about nobody believing them. They might’ve told someone before and nothing was done to help them. So, it is imperative that we listen, and listen carefully.

It is important too not to offer our own views and feelings, let them lead the conversation. If we appear too shocked, it could make them stop. Let them know they have done the right thing. Then it is important to explain to the child what will happen next, that it is necessary to report the abuse to someone who can help. Then we would recommend reporting the abuse as soon as possible whilst the details are still fresh in your mind. If the child is in immediate danger please contact 999. Our NSPCC helpline is also available on 0808 800 5000. But never confront the alleged abuser, by doing so you could be putting yourself in danger and even make the situation worse for the child. But above all, remember we all have a duty to look out for the welfare of children, so if you have any concerns at all, please do tell someone.

Here is the spotting the signs info:

What are the signs that a child may be being abused or neglected?

Some common signs that there may be something concerning happening in a child’s life include:

  • Unexplained changes in behaviour or personality including becoming withdrawn or anxious or uncharacteristically aggressive
  • Hearing aggressive or repeated shouting, things being broken and children crying for long periods of time
  • Very young children left alone or are outdoors by themselves 
  • Children looking dirty or not changing their clothes

These signs don’t necessarily mean that a child is being abused, there could be other things happening in their life which are affecting their behaviour – but we can help you to assess the situation by contacting the helpline.