Quick Exit

What is abuse and neglect?

Everyone has a right to be safe. Safeguarding means keeping you safe from harm or neglect.

young girl crying sitting on a sofa

Abuse occurs when another person harms a child or young person (17 years of age or under) either physically, verbally, emotionally or sexually. Similarly, a lack of care, love and attention showed towards a young person can also be defined as abuse. 


Lots of children and young people suffer abuse both in-person and online, as a one-off or abuse that occurs over a long period.

Abuse can be: +

  • Physical abuse can mean hitting, shaking, burning, slapping, and having things thrown at you, biting and physical bullying.​​​​​​
  • Sexual abuse can occur in two different ways.
  1. Contact abuse consists of a person or people kissing you or touching your body or making you do something you don't want to do. 
  2. Non-contact abuse can involve making you look at naked images of adults, children or other young people. Similarly, someone may ask you to send/post photographs of yourself or perform sexual acts on a webcam. It can also involve being 'flashed' at by someone.

For younger children, the NSPCC promote five easy ways of staying safe in their PANTS message:

Privates are Private

Always remember your body belongs to you

No means No

Talk about secrets that upset you

Speak up someone can help

You can find out more by watching the NSPCCs short video on the underwear rule.

  • Emotional and verbal abuse can be something that is said about you that makes you feel worthless. This type of abuse can also include threatening behaviour towards you, particularly name-calling. It can also mean excessive criticism and little or no praise.​​​​​​
  • Neglect is also a form of abuse. It can be summarised as the ongoing failure to meet your most basic needs. You might be left hungry, dirty or without proper clothing, shelter, supervision or health care.  

For more information on young people who've experienced abuse or neglect, please have a look at the NICE guide.