How abuse changes childhood
Child abuse can take many forms. It can be emotional, physical, sexual or a lack of love and attention through neglect. And it can happen to any child, in any family, in any place or online.
Abuse often happens over a period of time, rather than as a one-off event, and can have a devastating effect on a child's development and society as a whole.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can all play our part in preventing abuse. And we can all help a child who’s experienced abuse to get their life back on track.
We can work with families to prevent abuse
Severe problems such as poverty, drug or alcohol addiction or mental health issues can overload our capacity to care for children and can lead to a child being abused or neglected. Sometimes children themselves struggle to treat other children as they should.
That's not to say difficult circumstances inevitably lead to abuse, or that abuse can ever be excused. But these circumstances do make it more likely to happen.
By giving families the right support at the right time – from counselling or good foster care to a helping hand from a neighbour – we can help them manage these problems and give a child a more stable platform to grow up.
Supporting young minds
Experiences in the first years of our lives affect how our brains form. Science tells us that the stress of abuse or neglect can damage the basic structures of a child's developing brain. Without the right help, it can put them at risk of a lifetime of health problems, developmental issues and addiction.
But if we work together, we can help children overcome these stresses and have the nurturing experiences they need for positive development.
It's never too late to help a child
Abuse can have a huge impact on a child's health, relationships and education and can stop them from having the childhood they deserve.
As the child grows into an adult, they can find it harder to cope with life's stresses, get a good job, or be a good parent. They may also develop mental health problems, drug or alcohol issues, criminal behaviour – or show signs of harmful behaviour themselves.
But abuse and its effects are preventable.
We can turn things around for a child at any stage of their development. And if we work together to give them the support they need, they can go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
"I never thought I'd feel this happy again but with the right support you can carry on with your life."
What we're doing to support children and families
Delivering services across the UK
We run a range of services to help families through tough times, support children after abuse and help professionals to keep children safe. Keep scrolling for more ways we're fighting against abuse.
Teaching children to stay safe
We deliver our Speak out Stay safe programme in schools across the country to make sure children know how to protect themselves from abuse and how to get help.
Learning and sharing what works
We research what works in the fight against child abuse and share our learning to change children's lives for the better.
How you can play your part
Abuse can be prevented – and each of us can play a role in the fight against it. Any act, big or small, can make a real difference to a child and create a safer society for all children.
Last year a third of all calls to our helpline were about neglect, a figure that's even higher at Christmas. Donate now and help shine a light on children left in the dark.
Campaign with us
Volunteering for NSPCC and Childline
Do your own fundraising
Names and identifying features have been changed to protect identity.