Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Our Services A - Z :

What is Abuse

What is Abuse?

child crying

Being mistreated or abused (sometimes called ‘Significant Harm') is defined as Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse, Neglect or Emotional Abuse.


Types of Abuse


The NSPCC have specific pages on their website that will explain each type of abuse in more detail. Click on the abuse title to be directed to that specific page.


Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is deliberately hurting a child causing injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns or cuts.

Emotional Abuse

Children who are emotionally abused suffer emotional maltreatment or neglect. It's sometimes called psychological abuse and can cause children serious harm.


Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs. It's dangerous and children can suffer serious and long-term harm.

Sexual Abuse

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn't have to be physical contact, and it can happen online.

Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status.

Bullying and cyberbullying

Bullying can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally.

Domestic Violence

When one adult in a family or relationship threatens, bullies or hurts another family member e.g. physically, psychologically, emotionally, sexually or financially.

Witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse, and teenagers can suffer domestic abuse in their relationships.

Child Trafficking

Child trafficking is a type of abuse where children are recruited, moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work or sold.


Children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional.

Harmful sexual behaviour

Children and young people who develop harmful sexual behaviour harm themselves and others.


Signs and symptoms

How to tell whether behaviour is normal for their age

Children develop and mature at different rates. So what’s worrying for a younger child, might be normal behaviour for an older child. If a child looks or acts a lot older or younger than their age, this could be a cause for concern.

However, if a child develops more slowly than others of a similar age and there’s not a cause such as physical or learning disabilities, it could be a sign they’re being abused.

Click here to go to the section signs and symptoms and what behaviour is normal


If you are worried about a child?

0808 800 5000


What to do if you suspect abuse - a guide to keeping children safe

What to do if you suspect abuse - click here for more details


NSPCC - 'Don't wait until you're certain'

The NSPCC launched their'Don't wait until you're certain' campaign on 14 january 2013 to encourage members of the public not to wait before taking action if they have concerns about the safety or protection of a child.

The NSPCC are keen to change with the fact that almost half of those contacting the NSPCC with serious concerns are still waiting over a month before getting in touch. This can leave individual and other children at risk and delay the deployment of interventions that provide protection and support. For a young child a month can feel like a lifetime. In 2011 almost 45,000 people across the UK contacted the NSPCC worried about a child.

NSPCC guidance for parents on how to spot the signs of child sexual abuse.

NSPCC - Share Aware Help your child stay safe on social networks 

An NSPCC campaign which provides straightforward advice to parents on how to keep their 8-12-year-olds safe on social networks. Resources include: a YouTube video; a parents' guide to social networks; tips for talking to your child about online safety; and a Be ShareAware guide.

More information can be found be clicking here 




Updates to National documents

Working Together to Safeguard Children updated July 2018 - click here for updated version

Information Sharing - Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers updated July 2018 - updated version here