“You don’t have to use this in your website but, because I’ve been there, the advice I would give to someone that had been abused, and who didn’t know what to do is to remember it isn’t their fault, which I think has been mentioned. If they can tell as many people as they can, so they can get more and more support like i did, because the more you talk about it, the more it get’s out of your system.”
Written by a 15 year old in counselling.
Sexual abuse of children can happen in many different ways and may include:
- Sexual touching of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed, including using an object
- Assault by penetration, including rape or penetration of the mouth with an object or part of the body
- Encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity, including:
- Sexual acts with someone else
- Making a child strip or masturbate
- Intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child
- Not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others
- Meeting a child following sexual grooming, with the intent of abusing them
- Taking, making, allowing someone to take, distributing, showing or advertising indecent images of children
- Paying for the sexual services of a child
- Encouraging a child into prostitution or pornography
- Showing a child images of sexual activity, including photographs, videos or via webcams.
There are two different types of child sexual abuse. These are called contact abuse and non-contact abuse.
Contact abuse is where an abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration.
Non-contact abuse covers other acts where the abuser doesn’t touch the child, such as grooming, exploitation, persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet and flashing.
You may have hundreds of different feelings about what has happened to you, or you may be experiencing no feelings at all, you may feel numb inside. You may be feeling guilty that it was in some way your fault, you may be feeling confused, angry or alone.
If you have any feelings that you cannot come to terms with and you would like to speak to someone about what has happened to you then telephone one of the numbers in the “where do I go for help?” section. There are specially trained people who can help you through this.
You may not feel that you can contact someone just yet, below are some questions that you may be thinking about and answers that could help you.
When sexual exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded, or forced to:
- Send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
- Take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone
- Have sexual conversations by text or online
Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the young person’s friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity.
Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.
If you feel uncomfortable and have a feeling inside that something is wrong then trust your instinct and remove yourself from the situation if you can. If you can’t stop what is happening there and then, it is important to tell a trusted adult as soon as you can. You can look at our section on ‘Where Do I Go for Help?’ for some ideas about who else you can tell.
Children never do anything to bring this upon themselves – the abuser wants sexual contact to a child’s body, and it could be any child who happens to be there.
Child sex abusers usually take a lot of time and effort appearing to be kind and caring towards children, in order to get children to trust them.
The abuser wants the child to trust them so that when they begin to sexually abuse, it will be much more difficult for that child to tell someone about it. This could be because the child may feel guilty and embarrassed about what is happening.
This process of building a relationship with the child to ensure that they won’t speak out is known as ‘grooming’. Some paedophiles groom an entire family, so that they can gain sexual access to the children in the family and ensure that their parents/carers won’t suspect what is going on.
There are several ways that an offender may build a relationship with a child or family. He or she may:
- Attempt to gain trust by being a “really nice friend”.
- Give the child gifts/money, take them on outings or teach them to swim, ride a bike, play football etc.
- Offer help and support to a vulnerable family, i.e. if a family is having financial problems, they may offer money to help them out.
- Try and separate the child from their parents/carers, perhaps by offering to babysit or take them away on holiday.
- Begin a relationship with a single parent in order to get access to the child/children.
- Get a job working with children.
- Allow the child to do things that the parents/carers won’t, i.e. drink alcohol or look at pornography.
- Use chat rooms or game sites.
Once a relationship has been built-up, the paedophile will want to make sure the child doesn’t tell anyone. There are lots of ways that they might do this:
- Threatening the child, or someone they care about, with violence.
- Making the child feel ashamed and guilty, and implying that it is all their fault.
- Telling the child that no-one will believe them if they tell and they will get into lots of trouble.
- Telling the child that telling will split their family up.
- Offering the child gifts or other treats in return for keeping the secret.
- Telling the child that it is a ‘special’ secret relationship.
- Isolating the child from other family members and friends so that he/she is dependent upon the abuser and won’t want to lose their only ‘friend’.
If a child is told any of these things, it can be very confusing or frightening, making it difficult for them to tell anyone about what has been happening to them.
Yes, this can be normal. It is natural for our bodies to respond to being touched, and if a child really likes or even loves the person who is abusing them, the sensations may be pleasurable. It is important not to feel guilty about these feelings as it is not your fault. What the person is doing to you is wrong and it is completely their responsibility – just because you may feel some pleasurable sensations does not mean you want the abuse to happen.
Sometimes, our bodies respond even when we don’t like the person who is the abuser, and gain no pleasure from being touched. It is important to remember that the human body is designed to respond when it is touched (e.g. a penis usually becomes erect when touched), and this does not mean that you want to be abused. A male or female could have intense sexual feelings through physical stimulation.
If you are being sexually abused it is important that you try and tell somebody as soon as possible. We know that it can be difficult and that it takes great courage but there are people that can help you.
If you are feeling too afraid to speak to someone and you can get to use a computer you could e-mail the Cornwall Rape And Sexual Abuse Centre on email@example.com. This may help you start the process of telling someone what is happening to you. A specially trained
counsellor will e-mail you back and talk to you about how you are feeling. This might help you decide what to do next.
If you are under 18 and tell us that you, or someone you know is being or has been sexually abused or raped, we may have to share this information with Social Services, who will then help you get the support you need.
If you decide that you want to tell someone, the following information may help.
- Someone in your family who you trust
- Any adult that you trust
- OR any professional person such as the Police , Teacher or a Doctor, however they are not allowed to keep what you tell them a secret and they will have to pass it on to Social Services. They should always explain this to you and can also be there to support you through what happens next.
OR you can telephone people that have been specially trained to help
- NSPCC (0808 800 5000).
- ChildLine ( 0800 1111) offers 24 hour help (as mentioned above)
If you are being abused/harmed by someone in your home it is really important that you tell a trusted adult, for example a teacher at school. They will then help you to sort out what will happen next.
Social Services will take anything you say to them about your problems very seriously. The sorts of things that Social Services will do to help you may be different depending on your age and what sort of problems you tell them about.
Usually if you tell someone that you have been harmed in any way, Social Services and the police will want to talk to you. The police are from the Family Protection Unit and are specially trained police officers who are used to talking to young people.
They do not wear uniforms and you do not have to go to a police station. Social Services have to talk to the police but this does not always mean that someone will be arrested. Social Services and the police should tell you what they are going to do and what is likely to happen next.
The police usually keep track of your story by recording the interview with you on video. The reason they do this is to, hopefully, stop you having to keep repeating what has happened. If they do video you, it is normally done at the Family Protection Unit which is in a different place to the main police station. The room is comfortable, usually with a sofa and chairs and 2 small cameras that you probably won’t notice once you start talking.
The other reason that they might film you while you tell your story is in case there is a decision to take your case to court and punish the person who harmed you. The video will be used to tell people in the court what has happened to you, so that you don’t ever have to be in the same courtroom as the person who has harmed you.
However you might have to answer more questions if the person who harmed you denies it. You will not have to see them though if this happens. This should all be explained to you before you agree to be involved in a video interview.
You do not have to agree to a video interview but it really helps the police and Social Services if you are able to talk to them about what has happened to you and to give them as much information as possible. This will hopefully help you but also any other children or young people who might be being harmed by the same person or people that you are (or were) being harmed by.
If you, or someone else, think you may have been hurt, then a social worker will talk to you about having a medical examination. This is not done by your own GP but by
Doctors who have been trained specially to work with children and young people.
No-one is allowed to give you a medical examination without your permission.
However, it can often help to reassure you and give you the opportunity to ask any questions that might be worrying you. The most important thing that they have to try and do is make sure you will be safe. If you are not sure what is happening do not be afraid to ask.
If you have not already spoken to your parent(s)/carers, then Social Services will talk to you about how they will be told about what is happening. Your wishes and feelings will always be taken into consideration and Social Services should be honest with you about what will happen next.
If there is a very strong reason why you do not want your parents or carers to know then you must talk about this to Social Services.
Sometimes children and young people are harmed by their parents or their parent’s partners. If this has happened to you then Social Services and the police will consider very carefully when and how to talk to them to try and make sure that you are not harmed any further.
Some children and young people are abused by members of their own family or people living in their home. Social Services are not allowed to make any decisions about whether or not you are taken away from your home. It is the court which decides such things, not Social Services. However Social Services will tell the court if they think it is unsafe for you to stay at home. Social Services only recommend to the court that children are removed from their homes if they believe they will be still be at risk of abuse and harm if they stay.
Most children stay at home and are not removed. Social Services and the police will do everything they possibly can to ensure that you do not have to leave your home, but sometimes if you are still not safe, you may have to leave until it is safe to return home.
If you are being abused by someone who is not a member of your family or doesn’t live in your house it will hopefully be much easier to stop the abuse and you will not have to leave home as long as those who look after you can help protect you and stop the abuse happening.
You may think that no one else in your family is being hurt in the same way as you.
That might be true but often even when you think your brothers and sisters are O.K. they might not be. You may be being made to feel that you are ‘special’ and ‘the only one’ but that is not always the case.
Social Services try very hard not to split families up but the law says that they have got to consider the risk to other children living in the same household or who have contact with the person who has harmed you. Many children and young people have told us that they thought that their brothers and sisters were safe and then found out that they weren’t.
If Social Services and the police do not feel that other children or young people are safe from being harmed and if they cannot be reassured that there are adults who will protect these children or young people, they might be moved away from any possible danger until it is safe for them to return.
Social Services and the police’s job is to always listen to children and young people and take very seriously what they are saying.
How do I know I will feel better if I tell?
Secrets are really hard to keep especially if they are not happy secrets. Keeping something horrid all to ourselves can often make us feel very unhappy, frightened and lonely. There are lots of people who can help you if you talk about it.
Sometimes, if you talk about your problems, it may not immediately feel better because people can get very upset and angry about what has happened to you. It is really important that you remember that what happened was not your fault, whatever you may think or have been told. Bottling it up inside can feel worse, as this might mean you become even more unhappy. The best way to stop the abuse is to talk to someone you trust and ask them to listen to what you have to say.
The people who abuse and harm children often say this. It is because they know what they are doing is wrong and that if anyone finds out about it they will be in trouble. They try and frighten you into not saying anything by saying these things and threatening to hurt those you love and care about. You need to try and be brave and talk to someone you trust, telling them what has happened to you and also about the threats that have been made.
Talk to them and try and encourage them to talk to an adult that they trust. Offer to go with them and support them. If they refuse or are frightened to do this, talk to an adult that you trust about your worries and together try and work out a way to encourage your friend to talk to someone. If they still don’t want to tell anyone, you should get help to talk to Social Services and they will try and help you and your friend. It is important that you remember that you are not responsible for your friend all by yourself. Once your friend has shared their story with someone who can help, things should become easier for you.
Is there any point in telling Social Services and the police if the abuse has stopped?
Yes, absolutely. It might have stopped for you but what about other children and young people who might still be being abused? Do you know absolutely it is not happening to someone else? Sometimes we think that we are the only ones, but many people who have been abused later find out it was happening to others as well as to them.
Only you can decide what you want to do next but find someone to talk it through with. If you have not got any family or friends you can talk to try contacting one of the organisations who help and support those who have been abused. You could ask your Doctor or someone you trust for some contact details. Click on the Where Do I Go For Help link to find out more.
Social Services and the police will want to speak to you first to find out more information and they will not come to your house to do so unless this is the place in which you feel most comfortable. They will talk with you about who needs to know what has been happening and what might happen next. You do not have to speak to them on your own and you can take someone you trust with you.
I really wish I had told the police or Social Services because I think he/she could abuse me or someone else again. Do you think I should say something?
Yes, definitely. You must look after yourself and also be brave enough to speak out for others who might be being harmed or abused. This can be really hard to talk about, but if you are brave enough, you will be helping yourself and possibly stopping it happen to others who are too frightened and scared to talk.
They might guess depending on how many people they have abused, but they will have to be told, although not necessarily immediately. If the case goes to court as a result of you talking to the police then yes they will find out.
This would all be explained to you and you will be offered lots of support if you have to give evidence, If they try to frighten or threaten you in any way then you must tell the police and those looking after you immediately.
Do Social Services have to tell my parents/ carers what happened to me?
Part of your parents/carers job is to try and protect you. They can only do that if they know and understand what they are protecting you from. They do have to be told, but telling them is not your responsibility. It is part of the police and Social Services job to help you as much as they can and this includes talking to your parents/ carers and helping them to help you. If it is your parent or carer who has harmed you, they will still have to be spoken to, but it will not be you that has to talk to them.
The best thing you can do to start with is to contact somebody who can chat through the options with you. If you are no longer at risk, and depending how old you are, then there may be no need for your parents to be told. If you click on the Where Do I Go For Help link, there is lots of information there that may be helpful to you.
As long as you do not give any personal information, such as your name and address, to the people you are talking to, they cannot tell anyone else about the things you have been talking about. It is up to you how much information you give them. They will always do their best to advise you well.
To see how much you know click on the headings to see if you think the following statements are True or False:
Often the sexual abuse will leave no physical marks on the body of the child.
Sometimes, the paedophile does not touch the child, but gets the child to touch him/her, or encourages the child to look at or watch pornographic material.
This is true of some people who have been sexually abused. However, most people who have been in this situation would never want to put another child through sexual abuse, because they know how much it hurts.
Most children don’t tell anyone what is happening to them at the time of the abuse.
There are many reasons for this, including shame, fear and guilt. The abuser wants them to feel this way, because he/she knows it will probably stop the child from telling anyone.
As paedophiles are very good at tricking people, and hiding their true nature, many Mums often have no idea what is going on. This is why it is so important for children to tell if they are being sexually abused.
It is impossible to spot a paedophile, because they look just like everyone else.
They can begin sexually abusing children in their teens or early twenties.
Even if you are not believed by a parent/carer or another trusted adult, if you tell a professional such as a Teacher, G.P. Counsellor or Police Officer, you WILL be believed.
Not all abuse is sexual. If you are being harmed in any other way it is just as important to get some help, click for more information ,other types of abuse link