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The Status of Child Abuse in The United Kingdom

Child abuse is one of the most heinous of all types of crimes. Acts of violence against children can occur anywhere. Child abuse cases are reported against parents, caregivers, teachers, neighbors, family members and play mates. In the United Kingdom, reports of child abuse have constantly increased between the years of 2003 and 2014. In fact, they have almost doubled in number during those years. While cases occurred prior to that time and were reported regularly, the fact that abuse on all levels was becoming more prevalent encouraged governments within the United Kingdom to take action.

What Is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is defined as the mental, physical and emotional mistreatment or sexual molestation of a child. The definition of child abuse can vary slightly depending on who is being spoken to. Parents of an unruly child may spank their children, while others claim that striking a child is capital punishment, and therefore a type of child abuse.

Signs of Child Abuse

There are several different indicators of child abuse. Signs of sexual abuse in children can be similar to those of traditional forms of child abuse. Child abuse cases in the UK are often discovered when adults begin to notice the following signs of abuse in children.

  • Extreme changes in weight – Excessive weight gain or loss can be the result of various types of abuse.
  • Drop in grades – The stress incurred during abusive situation can lead to a drop in grades or a disinterest in their studies.
  • Depression – Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide.
  • Unkempt appearance – Children who go out in public with torn or stained clothing may be experiencing neglect within their home.
  • Paranoia – Fear of people can be the result of abuse by strangers or the fear of getting found out if the abuse is occurring in the home.
  • Emotional outbursts – Children who suffer various types of abuse may be prone to emotional or aggressive outbursts if they feel as if they are in danger.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, or NSPCC, helps to educate the public about child abuse and many of the signs that children who are being abused exhibit. Studies they have performed seemed to indicate that certain types of abuse are less prevalent than in years past, but the problem is still ongoing and must continually be addressed.

Types of Child Abuse

Child abuse cases in the UK consist of several different types of abuse. Abuse can be mild or quite severe and traumatizing. No matter what type of abuse a child endures, the effects are long lasting and will have an impact for the rest of their lives. Counseling and treatment programs are available for those whose cases are reported, but the fact remains that many cases are never even heard due to the child’s fear of retaliation. The five main types of abuse reported in the United Kingdom include:

  • Physical – Physical abuse consists of any type of physical assault on the child, including hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, shoving, slapping, grabbing, pinching, etc.
  • Verbal – Verbal abuse consists of yelling, screaming, taunting and teasing that involves hurtful and demeaning language that is intended to make the child feel inferior or worthless.
  • Emotional – Emotional abuse often consists of turning others against the child, using threats or continually making the child feel inferior in any way.
  • Sexual – Sexual abuse is the unwanted sexual advances that are made towards a minor. This also includes any physical sex acts that are performed against the child’s will.
  • Neglect – Depriving the child of food, water, clothing, shelter or any other necessity they may need to live a healthy and productive life.

Cases of child abuse can include one or a combination of any of the different types of abuse. Child sexual abuse is more common than many people think. In the UK, it is reported that almost 90 percent of all children who have been sexually abused, knew their attacker. Over 2000 children who were victims of sexual or other types of child abuse were identified as being in danger of future attacks and in dire need of protection from their assailants.

Child Abuse Statistics UK

The NSPCC claims that one out of every 20 children in the United Kingdom has been sexually abused. It is also estimated that one out of every 3 children that were sexually abused by an adult did not report the crime. Other statistics include:

  • In the UK, over 23,000 reported cases of sexual abuse are recorded in a year’s time.
  • NSPCC’s abuse hotline fields up to 7,300 phone calls each year from children or adults who know of a child that has been abused in some way.
  • In the UK, over 30,000 registered sex offenders have attacked children and abused them in some fashion.
  • In one year, over 5,500 child abuse cases were reported in which the victim was younger than 11 years of age.

The NSPCC hotline hears several thousand child abuse stories each year, many of which were never reported to the police. Many times, a child refuses to report child abuse because their attacker has threatened them, their parents or another family member with physical or bodily harm. The purpose of the hotline is to encourage children and adults to report acts of child abuse.

Volunteers also offer advice about who to turn to if the child or young adult wants to report the crime. Going to the proper authorities and making sure the right steps are taken is important to make the child feel secure and help them to know they are protected from any further types of attacks. The volunteer can offer the abused individual and their family members’ valuable information about counseling resources.

Reporting Child Abuse

Children are often too fearful to report the abuse on their own. Many experience difficulty telling their parents for fear that they will not be believed. Many schools and public officials, including doctors, teachers and day care workers are considered mandatory reporters and are required by law to report possible instances of abuse. This takes the reporting step out of the hands of the children who may never come forward.

Many children who do come forward require a support system to help them get through the process. One of the most common and, without question, one of the most powerful is an international organization called Bikers Against Child Abuse. Originally started in the United States, the group now has chapters all over the world who are dedicated to helping children through this very difficult time. Each child is assigned a member that they can communicate with directly. If a child is afraid to attend a hearing or meeting for fear of being victimized, either the BACA member or the entire group will show up as a means of letting the child know that they will not be victimized again. After the case is over, the child is encouraged to remain contact with the group so they can monitor their progress and be of assistance if the need ever presents itself in the future.

Research performed by NSPCC has provided several child abuse facts that parliament and other legislative officials in the UK have been using to formulate new legislation to stalking, harassment and various other types of abusive behavior. Groups like Action for Children and BACA offer support to both the children and their families have dedicated their entire organization to being available for them whenever they are needed. The groups have also helped to move legislation forward through Parliament to make sure that they become law.

Famous child abuse cases in the UK include those of Ryan Lovell-Hancox and Anna Climbie. Both children were killed by their parents or caregivers even though social services and local police departments had been involved in their cases. These two cases are just a few of many that have made headlines over the last few years. Amy Howson and Alfie Goddard are two other children who eventually died of injuries received through years of ongoing abuse. There are cases on the books where children have been beaten, starved and neglected for months at a time without law enforcement and social services trying to intervene.

Child Protection Teams are used to investigate instances of child abuse. Much of the time, the team’s reports are inconclusive and the children are returned to their parents only to meet an untimely death. The public’s outrage at these cases are forcing changes among UK lawmakers in an attempt to stop the violence and resulting deaths of small children due to different forms of child abuse and neglect.

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