Appendix 5 - Types and indicators of abuse

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Safeguarding Policy 2023

Appendix 5 - Types and indicators of abuse


Physical abuse

may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces illness in a child

Common signs of physical abuse:


  • commonly on the head but also on the ear or neck or soft areas - the abdomen, back and buttocks
  • defensive wounds commonly on the forearm, upper arm, back of the leg, hands or feet
  • clusters of bruises on the upper arm, outside of the thigh or on the body
  • bruises with dots of blood under the skin
  • a bruised scalp and swollen eyes from hair being pulled violently
  • bruises in the shape of a hand or object

Burns and Scalds

  • can be from hot liquids, hot objects, flames, chemicals or electricity on the hands, back, shoulders or buttocks; scalds may be on lower limbs, both arms and/or both legs
  • a clear edge to the burn or scald
    • sometimes in the shape or an implement for example, a circular cigarette burn
  • multiple burns or scalds

Bite Marks

  • usually oval or circular in shape
  • visible wounds, indentations or bruising from individual teeth
  • Fractures and Broken bones
  • multiple fractures or breaks at different stages of healing

Emotional abuse

is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

Signs and symptoms of emotional abuse It can prove difficult to tell if a child is being emotionally abused. Children and young people may:

  • use language, act in a way or know about things that you wouldn’t expect them to know for their age
  • struggle to control strong emotions or have extreme outbursts
  • seem isolated from their parents
  • lack social skills or have few, if any, friends.
  • eating disorders – sudden weight loss
  • self-harming

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, including prostitution, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape, buggery or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Signs and Symptoms of possible sexual abuse

Children who are sexually abused may:

Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse. Children in exploitative situations and relationships receive something such as gifts, money or affection as a result of performing sexual activities or others performing sexual activities on them. Children or young people may be tricked into believing they're in a loving, consensual relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed and exploited online. Child sexual exploitation is a hidden crime. Young people often trust their abuser and don't understand that they're being abused. Child sexual exploitation is never the victim’s fault, even if there is some form of exchange: all children and young people under the age of 18 (including 16 and 17 year olds) have a right to be safe and should be protected from harm. The abuse may occur without the child or young person’s immediate knowledge (through others copying videos or images they have created and posting on social media, for example) and can still be abuse even if the sexual activity appears consensual;

Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Exploitation:

  • Acquisition of money, clothes, mobile phones etc without plausible explanation;
  • Gang-association and/or isolation from peers/social networks;
  • Exclusion or unexplained absences from school, college or work;
  • Leaving home/care without explanation and persistently going missing or returning late;
  • Excessive receipt of texts/phone calls;
  • Returning home under the influence of drugs/alcohol;
  • Inappropriate sexualised behaviour for age/sexually transmitted infections;
  • Evidence of/suspicions of physical or sexual assault;
  • Relationships with controlling or significantly older individuals or groups;
  • Concerning use of internet or other social media;
  • Increasing secretiveness around behaviours
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food and clothing, shelter including exclusion from home or abandonment, failing to protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger, failure to ensure adequate supervision including the use of inadequate care-takers, or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.

Signs and Symptoms of Neglect

  • Poor Appearance and Hygiene
  • Unwashed clothes
  • Inadequate clothing
  • Hungry and not provided with adequate food/snacks
  • untreated injuries, medical and dental issues
  • repeated accidental injuries caused by lack of supervision
  • recurring illnesses or infections
  • not been given appropriate medicines
  • poor muscle tone or prominent joints
  • skin sores, rashes, flea bites, scabies or ringworm
  • thin or swollen tummy
  • tiredness
  • faltering weight or growth and not reaching developmental milestones
  • poor language, communication or social skills
  • Housing and family issues

Cultural practices:

Theatre Royal Wakefield is an equal opportunities organisation and would not discriminate on the grounds of race or religion. Some members of our communities hold beliefs that may be common within particular cultures but which are against the law in England. Theatre Royal Wakefield does not condone practices that are illegal or harmful to children. Examples of particular practices are:

Forced Marriages: No faith supports the idea of forcing someone to marry without their consent. This should not be confused with arranged marriages between consenting adults.

Under-age Marriages: In England, a young person cannot legally marry or have a sexual relationship until they are16 years old or more.

Female Genital Mutilation: This is against the law yet we know that for some in our communities it is considered a religious act and a cultural requirement. It is also illegal for someone to arrange for a child to go abroad with the intention of having her circumcised.

Signs and Symptoms of FGM

  • have difficulty walking, standing or sitting
  • Spend longer in the bathroom or toilet
  • Appear withdrawn, anxious or depressed
  • Have unusual behaviour after an absence from school or college
  • Be particularly reluctant to undergo normal medical examinations
  • Ask for help, but may not be explicit about the problem due to embarrassment or fear.

Reporting: must report ‘known’ cases of FGM in under 18s to the police (Home Office, 2016).

Ritualistic Abuse: Some faiths believe that spirits and demons can possess people (including children). What should never be condoned is the use of any physical violence to get rid of the possessing spirit. This is physical abuse and people can be prosecuted even if it was their intention to help the child.

Radicalisation of children and young people

At a time when terrorist incidents are dominating the news, there's increasing concern about young people's involvement in extremist groups. Radicalisation can be hard to recognise and can present itself in a number of different ways, posing serious risks to a young person's safety.

Signs that may indicate a child is being radicalised include:

    • isolating themselves from family and friends
    • talking as if from a scripted speech
    • unwillingness or inability to discuss their views
    • a sudden disrespectful attitude towards others
    • increased levels of anger
    • increased secretiveness, especially around internet use

Children who are at risk of radicalisation may have low self-esteem, or be victims of bullying or discrimination. Extremists might target them and tell them they can be part of something special, later brainwashing them into cutting themselves off from their friends and family.