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Psychological Child Abuse - What is it and How to Report it?


What is Child Abuse?

The term “Child Abuse” refers to anything that can cause significant harm to a child.

There are different forms of abuse, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse as well as child neglect.

What is Emotional or Psychological Child Abuse?

Emotional or psychological child abuse refers to emotional mistreatment of neglect of a child which may have an adverse effect on the psychological development of the child.

Psychological child abuse has many examples and covers a wide range of behaviours, however some examples may be:

  • Constantly humiliating and criticizing a child

  • Forcing a child to do degrading things

  • Constantly making a child the subject of hurtful jokes and mean sarcasm

  • Disallowing the child to have friends or controlling them in such a way their personal freedom is severely limited

  • Persistently ignoring the child

Psychological Child Abuse also includes forcing a child to take on responsibilities which may not be appropriate for their age or allowing them to witness abuse or drug-taking.

Am I under a duty to report child abuse?

Nobody is under any legal obligation to report abuse.

However, in certain jobs a person may be under the duty to report abuse, by Child Protection Policies at their workplace. Such policies will generally apply to those who work with children such as teachers, health service professionals and police officers.

If you suspect the abuse of a child, it is recommended you report it for the child's safety. You can report it to your local councils social services, the police or the NSPCC.

If a child is in immediate danger or risk, you should call 999.

To report a risk of child abuse you do not have to be sure that child abuse is occurring and are able to report suspected child abuse. The relevant authorities will then investigate accordingly.

Will the parents know that I have phoned Children’s Services about their child?

Generally, the name of the person who reported the possible abuse will not be shared with anyone apart from internal children's service workers. This means that the parents of the child will not be told either.

While informing children services about possible abuse, it is encouraged to give your details however it is possible to remain anonymous.

Both the police and the NSPCC have the power to make referrals to Children’s Services.

Will I know what Children’s Services decide to do after phoning them?

Generally, the person who reported the abuse will not be given further updates about the case. This is because it will generally be counted as a breach of confidentiality.

One situation where this is not the case is if the person who reported the suspected abuse has parental responsibility of the child. In this case, they will be updated about the case as it continues due to their involvement in the child’s lives.

What should I do if I know a child is at risk of harm but Children’s Services will not investigate?

If a person believes that a child is suffering abuse or likely to suffer abuse, but the Children’s Services is not acting further, then such person can do the following;

  • Remind the Children’s Services of your complaint

  • Rereport the family to Children's Services, especially if any new information has come to light

  • Make a complaint the Children’s Services director about the negligence of the Children’s Services department

  • Contact and ask to make a referral to NSPCC

  • It may also be beneficial to the child to alert their teachers or school

If Children’s Services suspect my child has been abused, and come to see me, do I have to speak to them?

It is not mandatory for a parent to speak to the Children’ Services.

However, it is incredibly important that parents cooperate with Children’s Services. If a parent refuses to cooperate with the Children’s Services then it is likely they will take further action against the parent.

The Children’s Services will never simply ignore an allegation if parents refuse to cooperate, and their priority will always be the child's welfare.

If Children’s Services want my child to have a medical examination, do I have to agree?

To perform a medical examinations on a child, Child Services will need the consent of one of the following:

  • Those with parental responsibility of the child

  • The courts - by court order

  • Or, in certain cases, if an older child is deemed competent enough to consent and understand the situation, they may be allowed to give their own consent.

If children's services want to take a child to the Doctor and the parents are not comfortable with this, the parent can ask if they can take the child themselves. It depends on the specifics of each case on what Child Services will allow.

It is highly advisable that the parent should cooperate in the medical examination as refusing to do so can lead to further proceedings in court.

Note: This article is not legal advice and should not be counted as legal advise.


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