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Recognising and preventing child abuse

Child abuse includes more than sexual and pornographic activity, it can also involve violence, neglect and psychological or emotional abuse.

How to stop it before it starts

  • Don't leave your child with anyone you are not sure of and try and find out as much as you can about babysitters or their friend's family before your child stays with them. You can find further advice regarding this on our Safe childcare page.
  • Always listen to what your child has to say about the people who have looked after them. If they are not happy, find someone else.
  • Make sure your child understands what unacceptable physical closeness and activities are, including being photographed inappropriately. The NSPCC Underwear Rule offers parents advice on how to have these conversations.
  • Be aware that a child often knows the person who is abusing them. They are likely to be trusted family members, family friends, neighbours or babysitters.
  • Make sure your child knows how to keep themselves safe online and when they are outside the home.

Signs to look out for

There can be many reasons for changes in your child's behaviour but you may need to step in and do something if your child is:

  • having problems sleeping
  • having nightmares
  • becoming withdrawn or very clingy
  • showing personality changes such as becoming insecure
  • wetting the bed
  • showing an unaccountable fear of particular places or people
  • having outbursts of unexplained anger
  • changing their eating habits
  • displaying physical signs such as unexplained bruises or soreness or sexually transmitted diseases
  • becoming secretive
  • becoming possessive and protective of their mobile phone
  • stopping you from seeing what they're doing online
  • displaying sexual behaviour towards other children, or with toys or objects.

What you can do to help

  • If your child is unhappy about going to a friend or carer, a regular activity or being with a particular adult, talk to them about why this is and make sure they understand you believe them.
  • If you think your child, or any child, is in immediate danger call the Police on 999.
  • If you're worried but you don't think the child is in immediate danger, call Surrey Police on 101.
  • Someone from the Police or Surrey County Council's Children's Services will talk to you about your concerns and may ask for details so they can investigate further. Children's Services are required under law to investigate concerns about child abuse but it is rare for a child to be removed from their family. Children's Services will aim to ensure a family is supported as well as making sure that the child is kept safe.