Snaps, sexts, nudes, fanpics – an insight into teenage life on social media.

Rebecca, 13, provides an insight into teenage life on social media.

“I’ve had a phone for two years now. I wanted one so I could chat with my friends. I’m now on Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Oovoo.

“I send selfies to my friends all the time but I’ve never sent a nude. I can’t imagine taking my clothes off and sending a stranger or even someone I know a naked picture. It’s just weird. My body is private. That’s not to say a lot of my friends do and they think it’s cool and normal too.

“My friend Lucy sends her boyfriend, and other boys, nudes all the time. She’s forever getting her boobs and more out. The boys open them in front of their mates, just like she does when she receives one, so we end up seeing private parts of girls and boys from across the school. Lucy sometimes gets upset when she finds out other people have been looking at her pictures but that doesn’t stop her doing it again. She thinks it makes the boys happy and it makes her feel good about herself.

“I’ve had boys in the year above me send nudes. They start sending pictures of their face and the pictures just continue until their revealing all. They try to get me to send them back. It’s disgusting to see so I delete them and if they keep hassling me I just block them.

“I also get random messages from guys I’ve never heard of. Asking me to chat and asking me to check out links to horrible websites. One of my friends was contacted by a French guy who’d been looking at the pictures and videos on her profile and telling her that he really liked her and wanted to meet up. We told her to block him. It was a bit weird.

“My parents were initially against me using social media, saying that I was too young but we talked about what should and shouldn’t be shared. We talk lots at school about what staying safe online and I feel confident there are people I could turn to if I ever found myself in trouble.

“My phone is a big part of my life and I’m never without it. I’m aware that there are dangers of being on social media but so long as you think about what you are doing and sharing, you’ll be safe.”

What her dad, Daniel, 48 says:

“Rebecca was 11-years-old when we decided she needed a phone. She was in Year 6 and had just started walking to and from school with her friends. Yes she wanted a phone but it was for her own safety that we bought her one.

“We set ground rules from day one. We’ve put restrictions on the phone so anything unsuitable for under 15s can’t be accessed or viewed. Other stipulations were that she enables the phone tracking at all times so I can locate her. Also, her passcode must be displayed on the fridge at all times so if we want to access it for any reason, we can do so.

“It’s shocking to know the things 11, 12 and 13-year-olds say and send to each other. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rebecca hasn’t thought about sending an image that perhaps she shouldn’t but as parents we can’t monitor her activity 24/7.

“It worries us as parents what could happen knowing that she’s got an online presence but it’s part of the world we live in and we’ve got to trust that she’ll make the right decisions but also let her know that we’re here if she ever needs our help.”

We can all play a part in protecting children from child abuse

It’s a sad fact that at Cambridgeshire Constabulary we have investigated 625 cases of child abuse across the county between January 1 and November 30 this year.

Protecting children from harm , keeping them safe and investigating child abuse crimes in all forms is and will always be a priority for us.

We have a dedicated team called the Child Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit (CAISU) who take a child-centred approach to ensure the welfare and well-being of the child is core to every investigation.

We also work closely with our partner agencies in social care, education and health to manage the safety of children and investigate criminal offences.

Child abuse comes in various forms and can affect anyone. The consequences can be life-changing for the victim and those around them.

Here’s a bit more information about the four main types; emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse.

Emotional abuse is the second most common reason for children needing protection from abuse but one of perhaps the least spoken about. It’s psychological abuse which can damage a child’s emotional health and well-being. Deliberately trying to scare or humiliate a child or isolating or ignoring them is an example.

Signs to look out for in a child’s behaviour include being overly affectionate towards strangers, lacking confidence or being aggressive or nasty to other children.

Others might struggle to control their emotions, seem isolated from their parents or carers, lack social skills or have few friends.

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse and can have a debilitating and long-lasting effect on a child’s physical well-being and on their mental, emotional and behavioural development.

It’s defined as not meeting a child’s basic needs including adequate healthcare, supervision, clothing, nutrition, housing as well as their physical, emotional, social, educational and safety needs. It can be anything from leave a child at home alone to the very worst case where a child dies from malnutrition.

Multiple or persistent signs of poor appearance and hygiene, health and development problems and housing a family issues could indicate a serious problem.

Physical abuse is when someone deliberately hurts a child. Children who are physically abused suffer violence such as being hit, kicked, poisoned, burned, slapped or have objects thrown at them.

All children have bumps, scrapes and falls but if a child often has injuries, there seems to be a pattern, or the explanation doesn’t match the injury then it needs to be investigated.

If you think a child is in danger, call police straight away on 999.

Sexual abuse is when a child or young person is forced or enticed to take part in sexual activities. It’s important to know that it doesn’t have to be physical, it can happen online.

One in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused and more than 90 per cent of children sexually abused knew their offender.

Children might stay away from certain people or seem frightened if they are being sexually abused. They may also show sexual behaviour that’s inappropriate for their age and have physical symptoms.

You have a key role to playpcso-no-words

It’s often difficult for children and young people to tell someone about their abuse, particularly if they are being manipulated by their abuser or if they don’t think they’ll be believed. They might show it in other behavioural ways.

Each and every one of us can help prevent further abuse of an individual by reporting child abuse.

Sharing your concerns doesn’t mean a child will be automatically taken into care. Your concerns will be carefully listened to, information gathered and then an assessment of the immediate risk will be carried out to decide the appropriate action.

You don’t have to be absolutely certain about your suspicions. If you feel something isn’t right you can talk to us on 101, the NSPCC, Childline or your local authority. If you feel a child’s life is in immediate danger please call 999 straight away.

“I was very confused. I thought it was normal because I was ‘bad’.”

This is the true story of Kirsty who suffered emotional, physical, neglect and sexual abuse at the hands of her parents.

“My mother told me that she had a difficult birth with me, that I was a noisy baby and that she was going to have a large family until she had me. From when I was really young I thought that I was bad and that she hated me.

“On a daily basis, she would shout at me, swear at me and call me names. She would hit me hard around my head. I was beaten with shoes, wooden spoons, hairbrushes and knitting needles.

“As I grew older things got worse. I tried everything I could think of to try to get my mother to like me and become ‘good’. I cleaned and cooked to the best of my ability but she always found faults. She said I was ‘stupid, useless and bad’ and everything that went wrong was my fault.

“My dad showed his love to me since I was born but he started to sexually abuse me when I was five. To start with he said it was a game, then that he did it because he loved me so much. I started to block it out while it was happening but it was painful. He also hit me and hit my mother when they were arguing about me.

“When I was eight I started to get suicidal feelings and I attempted to kill myself. I was scared and on edge every day around my mother. When I was 10-years-old she started to starve me as a punishment I had to steal food to survive.  I started to get really confused. I thought my father loved me but he was going along with my mother starving me and hitting me. I was also confused to have a boyfriend who loved me but never hurt me.

“At 14 I just couldn’t take anymore. I had known about Childline for a while and suddenly something just snapped and I decided to call them. I went to a phone box and made the call for help. At first I couldn’t speak and I hung up. I did this for about two months and each time the counsellor would tell me that it was ok for me not to talk and that they would be there for me when I was ready to talk. This really helped and eventually I built up the confidence to just say hello and answer yes or no to questions. They were very patient and stuck by me until I could have a proper conversation when I was 15. Even then I wouldn’t give my real name as I was scared.

“I was also very confused as I thought it was all normal because I was ‘bad’. I started to speak to Childline regularly and they told me that what happened to me didn’t happen to every child and that it was not my fault. It took me a while to open up to them but I am glad they didn’t push me. They were so patient.

“I started refusing to do what my mother wanted me to do. This made her mad though so I began running away. I was abusing alcohol and substances, self-harming regularly and made several suicide attempts but every time I called Childline and they sent an ambulance and saved my life.

“I was referred to Social Services but they asked me about the abuse in front of my parents and that made things worse. After that I denied anything happened as I was too scared to say anything else.

“At 16 a social worker took me to a psychiatric adolescent unit. I thought I had help and was safe but I was made to go home every weekend and the abuse continued. I started to run away on Fridays or attempted to kill myself. I repeatedly screamed, sobbed and smashed up my bedroom in the unit. I self-harmed several times a day. Eventually, after four months, they stopped sending me home. In the end I ran away to a different city so I could be as far away from my parents as possible.

“During all of this time I kept phoning Childline and I carried on calling them until I was 18. They made me realise that I had the right to be safe and concentrated on making me feel that way. Knowing I could talk to them when I needed to was a real comfort. I often hated myself and wanted to die but they saved my life so many times. I would encourage any young person who needs help to contact Childline as they will help you through whatever you are experiencing. I am now fundraising for Childline to try to raise money to give something back and help other children get the help I was given.”

Kirsty

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog contact Childline for help and support, free on 0800 1111 or get in touch online

Even if you’re not certain but suspect a child is being abused, please report it. If someone’s life is in immediate danger, always call 999, or if there’s no immediate danger but you need to speak to the police, call 101.

Alternatively, contact the NSPCC anonymously by calling the free 24/7 helpline on 0808 800 5000 online or text 88858.

A week in the life of the Child Abuse unit

The Child Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit (CAISU) is responsible for investigating allegations of interfamilial child abuse, abuse committed by people in positions of trust and historical investigations into childhood abuse.

A typical week in the department involves responding to live child protection investigations, working with partner agencies to deal with risk, attending meetings to discuss safety planning and ensuring victims are supported.  We respond to concerns from members of the public and other agencies and work closely with our partner services to ensure the voice of the child is listened to.

Monday saw the team deal with a variety of cases. Our first case of the day involved responding to a disclosure made by an 11-year-old girl that she had been sexually touched by her father. The girl had disclosed to school, who following national guidance informed Children’s Social Care which resulted in a detective constable and a social worker attending to speak to her.  istock_000020399992_large

The officer and social worker built a rapport with the girl and she felt able to tell them both what had been happening. The incidents happened a few years ago and she no longer sees the suspect so in that regard she was safe. Whilst the allegations were historical, the impact on the victim was clear and she will be offered ongoing support throughout the investigation by her case officer, the Victim and Witness Hub and Social Care.

That same day we also dealt with an incident where a five-year-old boy had alleged he had been kicked by his father and that he had witnessed ongoing domestic abuse between his parents. The effects of domestic abuse on children are very well documented and include emotional effects as well as physical risk. The child’s father had been arrested on suspicion of assault of the child and his mother. 

A DC and a social worker visited the boy and engaged with him in a child friendly fashion where he told them fully what had happened and what he had witnessed. The voice of the child is extremely important and it was clear, even at his young age, what impact seeing violence in the family home had had on him.

On Tuesday officers dealt with a serious case of neglect. Two girls aged seven and nine disclosed to a teacher at school that they were regularly hit with belts by their parents. A DC and sociapcso-no-wordsl worker were dispatched where the children were very open and disclosed persistent, ongoing beatings with belts. One of the children was described by school as withdrawn and lacked the ability to display emotion. This was also commented upon by the attending officer and social worker. Such was the risk to the children that the attending officer took the very unusual step of placing the children into police protection meaning they felt the only way to adequately safeguard them, was to remove them from their parents care.  This case shows not only the physical harm that can be caused by over chastisement but the emotional impact as well.

Wednesday saw us deal with another neglect case this time concerning the home environment a child was living in. All children have a right to live in an environment in which their basic needs will be met and they are given an opportunity to thrive. The concern on this occasion was that the home environment was not suitable. The child often came to school in poorly fitting clothes which were dirty and appeared isolated from her peers all of which would impact on her emotional wellbeing. In such cases, it is important to assess the wider impact factors on the family and ask why the environment has reached the state it had.  There were socioeconomic reasons why the house was in thshutterstock_164492888e state it was and on this occasion it was felt that a multiagency response to support the child and parents would have a far better long-term outcome than a criminal investigation. With support from the council and Social Care, the house was cleaned up, school assisted in providing discounted uniform and Social Care will provide support to ensure this positive change is maintained.

On Thursday, we responded to a case in which a nine-year-old boy disclosed at school that he had been smacked by his father. When spoken to by a DC and social worker, it quickly became apparent that whilst he did not like the smacking, the greater issue for him was the way he felt singled out in the family home. He articulshutterstock_97346549ated his thoughts and feelings and how this in turn affected his own behaviour. Upon speaking to his parents, they did not realise the way he was feeling and all agreed they needed some support to help them move forward as a family.

Friday tends to see an increase in work for us as a department. We attended two multi-agency meetings to discuss the highest risk cases in the county where each aspect of a child’s life is discussed, including their emotional and physical wellbeing, positive aspects as well as areas that require change. A safety plan is developed with an emphasis on what change is required of which all partner services have a duty to support.

The team also deals with historical allegations of abuse. We have a dedicated set of officers to deal with these investigations. This week we received a report from a victim reporting historical sexual abuse from the 1970’s. The case was allocated to a DC who contacted the victim with a view to explaiUnhappy Children Sitting On Floor In Corner At Homening the investigation process and most importantly to offer advice on support available which resulted in a referral to the Victim and Witness Hub. Whilst the offences happened more than 30 years ago, safety of children now is paramount and so checks were conducted to ensure the alleged suspect does not have current access to children.  If this is the case, then an urgent safeguarding assessment will be conducted by our colleagues in Children’s Social Care.

The voice of the child is extremely important, they have a right to feel safe and not be in fear. Any form of abuse will have an emotional impact on a child but this may not always be evident on first glance so we urge people to be aware of any subtle changes in a child’s behaviour and report this to a professional.

The CAISU Team

‘My wife said it was an accident when she poured two litres of scalding water over me’

Ken is a survivor of domestic abuse. In this video he tells us how what started off as verbal abuse soon turned into physical abuse.

One day, while sat at his computer, his wife poured the best part of two litres of scalding water over his head and back, leaving him with horrific scarring for the rest of his life.

Click on the below video to see Ken’s full story.

If you’re male and think you might be suffering domestic abuse, visit Men’s Advice Line for help and support, or you can call them on 0808 801 0327.

 

Do you feel as though you may just snap?

Almost a year ago to the day, on November 24, 2015, Matthew (not his real name) was asleep in bed when he suffered a vicious attack. The offender was his wife.

It was 4.59am when we received the 999 call from Sarah (not her real name) who stated there had been an incident with a knife.

We could hear a man in the background saying “why have you stabbed me?”

When we arrived at the house in Cambridge, we found Matthew with two deep stab wounds to his upper left shoulder, with blood across the bedding and floor, and a bloodied knife left on the desk.

Sarah was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm (GBH).

In interview she was asked if she had stabbed her husband, to which she answered yes. She said she had smoked a couple of cannabis cigarettes and chatted to Matthew, all was quite normal and at about midnight they both went to bed and watched a DVD before falling asleep.

She then told us she woke up – she and Martin were squabbling around the bed for some 15 minutes when she recalled the sound of something being dropped on the floor, something she believed to be a knife.

She picked up the knife and was holding it, sat on the edge of the bed before she stabbed Matthew in the shoulder.

When asked why she had stabbed her husband, she said she wanted deflation, she wanted everything to stop and wanted to get away from Matthew and their marriage.

Five years ago Matthew had been diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder and struggled with his mental health. Sarah told us it had been hard to get her husband ‘back’ after this and wanted it all to stop – she couldn’t deal with his illness any longer.

Abusive behaviour can often be aggravated by the use of alcohol or drugs – if you are feeling as though you are struggling with a relationship and are worried one day you might snap, help is available in many different forms, whether it may be to work through the issues in your relationship, or to deal with any abusive or violent tendencies towards a partner or family member.

If you feel you need support, anger management guidance and courses are available from a variety of places, however the NHS website has lots of useful information.

choosing-to-change-flier

JB’s story – Fighting for childhood: an NSPCC story

Mum made sure I had lots of happy memories growing up. One of my favourite days was spending time at a soft play centre and going down a slide really fast. I was six years old.

I have lots of sad memories too. All of them involve my dad. I didn’t feel very safe. Dad did lots of things that scared me. He would punch holes in walls and once kicked my brother’s door off the hinges because he wouldn’t let him into his bedroom.

I kept my feelings about what I’d seen at home to myself. School weren’t very helpful. They thought I had behavioural problems and sent me to a specialist who didn’t understand me.

My worst memory of growing up happened when I was nine years old. My dad was shouting really loud and calling my mum lots of really awful names. I saw him raise his hand to hit her and I was worried about what he’d do so I got in the middle to protect her and push him away. We moved out of the house that day and went to stay with my Nana.

I started to pretend to be ill at school so I could go home and be with mum. I was afraid that my dad would turn up and felt scared about what he’d do.

My school nurse asked Lynsey* from the NSPCC to come and see me. She talked to me about their Domestic Abuse: Recovering Together (DART) programme and how it might help me. Lynsey was the first person who spoke to me about the violence like an adult rather than a child.

At the first session I got to meet other young people who had seen the same things and had similar feelings. I started to feel a bit more normal and realised for the first time that I wasn’t alone.

My favourite session was where we made a volcano bottle bubble with vinegar and baking soda. I’d filled the volcano with words that described how I felt about my dad and lots of glitter so that when the volcano bottle burst it helped me to understand that bottling up things wasn’t a good idea.

It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

JB’s mum, Scarlett, describes how the DART programme helped them heal – visit the NSPCC website here to read it.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.