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Helping children, young people and their families thrive

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. Sometimes the child won't understand that what's happening to them is abuse.

They may not even understand that it's wrong. Or they may be afraid to speak out.

Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse

Types of child sexual abuse

There are two different types of child sexual abuse. These are called contact abuse and non-contact abuse.

Contact abuse involves touching activities where an abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration. It includes:

  • sexual touching of any part of the body whether the child's wearing clothes or not
  • rape or penetration by putting an object or body part inside a child's mouth, vagina or anus
  • forcing or encouraging a child to take part in sexual activity
  • making a child take their clothes off, touch someone else's genitals or masturbate
Sexual abuse

Non-contact abuse involves non-touching activities, such as grooming, exploitation, persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet and flashing. It includes:

  • encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
  • 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
  • online abuse including making, viewing or distributing child abuse images
  • allowing someone else to make, view or distribute child abuse images
  • showing pornography to a child
  • sexually exploiting a child for money, power or status (child exploitation)
Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse

Developing healthy brains

Every child needs loving, nurturing care from the adults around them if they are to develop 
the healthy brains they need to be able to thrive and this is even more important in the first few years of life. The toxic stress that abuse causes means that a child's healthy brain development can be impaired.

The good news is our brains aren't fully formed until around the age of 25, so there are 
opportunities to help young people develop the skills they need and to overcome the impact of earlier toxic stress.

Watch this short film to find out more about the impact toxic stress can have on a child’s healthy brain development.

Need to talk

Need to talk?

If you would like to talk to one of our local Family Support workers to see how we can help, pop into one of our family centres, email contact@family-support.org.uk or phone 020 8753 6070.

We're here to help with tailored support for you and your family - just ask!

Houra from Masbro

Worried about a child?

If you are worried about a child or young person, please call our team on 020 8753 6600.

If you are worried that a child or young person is at immediate risk, please contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 500 or help@nspcc.org.uk or call the police on 999

Remember Childline is always there for any young person online and on the phone anytime. If you are worried about yourself or a friend they are there for you.