Are They Safe?

Suffolk Constabulary is urging everyone to keep vigilant to any signs of child abuse or neglect.

Whilst Suffolk police, local authority, health, education and partner agencies have a critical role in working together to keep children safe, child protection is everyone’s responsibility.

We want to do everything we can to ensure that the public are aware of potential signs of abuse, neglect or exploitation in children and young people and to encourage the reporting of any concerns they might have.

We believe that the public and in particular employers or employees who are in public facing roles can perform a vital function in alerting authorities to potential situations of abuse and exploitation.

If you have any concerns about a child or young person, you can call:

  • Customer First on 0808 800 4005 if you're worried that a child or young person is at risk of harm, abuse, or neglect
  • In an emergency the police on 999

Child abuse can take different forms. The main types of abuse are:

Neglect: can mean the persistent lack of essential care for a child including enough love, stimulation, safety, food, clothing, shelter, medical care or education.

Potential indicators of a child being victim of neglect include:

  • constant hunger or tiredness
  • poor personal hygiene
  • poor condition and cleanliness of clothing
  • untreated medical problems
  • lack of social relationships

Emotional abuse: can mean repeatedly rejecting a child, unfairly blaming them for things, constantly threatening or putting a child or young person down so that they feel unloved and worthless. It may involve serious bullying (including cyber bullying), causing the child to feel frequently frightened or in danger, or causing the child to witness domestic abuse between others.  It can also be the exploitation or corruption of children.

Potential indicators of a child being victim of emotional abuse include:

  • reduced physical, mental and emotional development
  • continual self-depreciation, eg ‘I’m stupid’, ‘I’m ugly’, ‘I’m worthless’
  • inappropriate response to pain, eg. ‘I deserve this’
  • self-harm

Physical abuse: can mean any form of abuse which may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.  This can also include giving a child medicine they do not need.

Potential indicators of a child being victim of physical abuse include:

  • unexplained recurrent injuries, marks or burns
  • covering injuries with clothing even in hot weather
  • fear of physical contact, flinching and shrinking back from child if touched

Sexual abuse: can mean forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in any kind of sexual activity, whether or not they are aware of what is happening. It can include inappropriate touching, kissing or sexual intercourse. It can also involve causing a child to look at or be involved in the making of pornographic material or videos or grooming a child.

Potential indicators of a child being victim of sexual abuse include:

  • becoming isolated or withdrawn, depression, self-harm/suicide attempts, running away, overdoses or anorexia
  • demonstration of overly or age-inappropriate sexualised behaviour
  • personality changes such as becoming insecure or clinging
  • medical problems such as chronic itching, pain in the genitals or symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases

Exploitation: Child exploitation refers to the use of children for someone else’s advantage, gratification or profit often resulting in unjust, cruel and harmful treatment of the child.  These activities are to the detriment of the child’s physical or mental health, education, moral or social-emotional development. It covers situations of manipulation, misuse, abuse, victimisation, oppression or ill-treatment.  Exploitation can be categorised into two main forms: Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE). There are similarities between these forms of exploitation and the criminal and sexual exploitation of children may overlap.

Potential indicators of a child being exploited include:

  • Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries.
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being.
  • Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups.
  • Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area.
  • Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones.
  • Carrying weapons or offending behaviour.
  • Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls and/or having multiple devices.
  • Significant decline in educational performance and/or attendance.
  • Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks.
  • Secrecy when using phone or internet.
  • Unexplained use of public transport and/or concealment of travel tickets.

Suffolk Constabulary’s Detective Superintendent Dave Giles said: “It can sometimes be difficult to know what to do for the best. If you are worried that a child is being harmed, hurt, or neglected, you may think that someone else already knows and everything will be alright. It might seem the easiest option is to do nothing. But please don’t. Trust your own judgement. It is important that you act. Please always think “child safety” and be confident that a report from you will be taken seriously.

“Police receive information from many sources, but the small piece of information that makes all the difference to a child’s welfare could come from you – we would rather get to know about a safeguarding issue twice, rather than not at all.”

Anthony Douglas CBE, the independent chair of the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership said: “The public are the eyes and ears of children and adults at risk. It is everyday safeguarding in the community which protects children most. Safeguarding agencies work in partnership with the community including family members, small community and voluntary organisations and the general public, to exercise professional and community curiosity about anyone who is potentially at risk. This is true partnership working”

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: “Sadly, some young children are subjected to the most unimaginable cruelty and it’s up to us all to act if we any concerns about the safety of a child. 

“Knowing what to look out for and how to report it is crucial and I would urge everyone reading this to take some time today to just consider the Constabulary’s advice so you will be more aware in future.  

“Protecting our young people is a responsibility for us all and the better equipped we are to see the signs, the safer our children will be.”

More details can be found here>

Reporting a child at risk of harm, abuse or neglect (safeguarding) | Suffolk County Council

This section of the Suffolk police website contains useful guidance and information for parents, guardians and children to ensure all children are safeguarded from harm> Child protection | Suffolk Constabulary

Look for the signs to spot> Are They Safe?