Types of Abuse: Emotional Abuse, Child Sexual Exploitation and Radicalisation

This blog is part 2 of a series of blogs about abuse. Vikky Chaffe our Head of Community Relations will explore the different types of abuse that children and young adults could become victims of. She will also look at different symptoms that a child might display when they are a victim of abuse. These are in no way an exhaustive list but it is a way of being aware that, however small, a change in behaviour could be a sign that the child needs help. 

Content Warning: Please be advised that the content below is sensitive and contains detailed information concerning types of abuse and examples or symptoms of emotional abuse, child sexual exploitation and radicalisation. This may be triggering for some readers, discretion is advised. 

In part 1 of this series of blogs, we looked at Physical abuse, Sexual Abuse and Neglect. In this blog, we will focus on Emotional Abuse, Child Sexual Exploitation and Radicalisation. 

Emotional Abuse 

Emotional abuse can also be called psychological abuse. It is the deliberate and continued ignoring, scaring, humiliating or isolating of a child.  

This type of abuse often goes hand in hand with other types of abuse, especially physical or neglect, but it can happen on its own too. The signs and symptoms of this type of abuse can be tricky to spot because they can be masked by the other abuse symptoms. They can also be quite subtle so you must be vigilant and observant.  

There are several types of abuse. Here are some but this is not an exhaustive list. 

  • Threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names 
  • Blaming and scapegoating 
  • Making a child perform degrading acts 
  • Pushing a child too hard or not recognising their limitations 
  • Exposing a child to upsetting events or situations, like domestic abuse or drug taking 
  • Failing to promote a child's social development 
  • Not allowing them to have friends 
  • Persistently ignoring them 
  • Being absent 
  • Not recognising a child's own individuality or trying to control their lives 
  • Humiliating or constantly criticising a child 
  • Manipulating a child 
  • Making the child the subject of jokes, or using sarcasm to hurt a child
  • Never saying anything kind, expressing positive feelings or congratulating a child on successes 
  • Never showing any emotions in interactions with a child, also known as emotional neglect. 

Signs and Symptoms 

These signs and symptoms can be varied in different aged children. As mentioned before, these signs can be very subtle and could be undetected until a child has reached a crisis point. These signs can be very difficult to notice in adolescents due to their difference in behaviour which could also be a part of puberty.  

Some signs could be: 

  • Act age-inappropriate, both younger or older 
  • Find it difficult to manage their emotions 
  • Struggle to make friends or maintain relationships 
  • Lack of self-belief and confidence 

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) 

CSE is a type of sexual abuse. Child exploitation is where a child is given gifts they couldn’t usually afford or given love and affection that they desperately seek but do not receive from home. CSE usually happens to vulnerable children, those who could be removed from their families, or victims of emotional abuse. They are desperate to be loved and feel valued, this leads them to be susceptible to grooming. Grooming is where an adult gives a child what they want, e.g. love, money, etc in order for favours in return. The children or vulnerable adults need to trust their abuser. 

Children and young adults who are in gangs are also at risk of CSE. Gangs can use CSE to exert power and control, for initiation or they may even use sexual violence as a weapon. There are also children trafficked into the UK to be sexually exploited where they are moved around the country and used by being made to take part in sexual activities sometimes with more than one person. 

Sometimes abusers use violence and intimidation to frighten or force a child or young person, making them feel as if they've no choice. They may lend them large sums of money they know can't be repaid or use financial abuse to control them. 

Anybody can be a perpetrator of CSE, no matter their age, gender or race. The relationship could be framed as friendship, someone to look up to or romantic. Children and young people who are exploited may also be used to 'find' or coerce others to join groups. 

CSE can happen not only in person but online too. While online, the abuser will gain the child's trust by gifting them points or money or praise and love. 

When a child is sexually exploited online they might be persuaded or forced to send or post sexually explicit images of themselves, film or stream sexual activities or have sexual conversations. 

Once an abuser has images, video or copies of conversations, they might use threats and blackmail to force a young person to take part in other sexual activity. They may also share the images and videos with others or circulate them online. 


Signs and Symptoms 

Again, the issue with these signs are that they can be misinterpreted as puberty. You must be vigilant when it comes to adolescents. Here are some of the symptoms: 

  • Being secretive
  • Unhealthy or inappropriate sexual behaviour. 
  • Sharp changes in mood or character
  • Having money or things they can't or won't explain
  • Physical signs of abuse, like bruises or bleeding in their genital or anal area
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Being frightened of some people, places or situations
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Pregnancy
  • Having a new group of friends
  • Missing from home or care, or stopping going to school or college
  • Staying out late or overnight
  • Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Hanging out with older people, other vulnerable people or in antisocial groups
  • Involved in a gang
  • Involved in criminal activities like selling drugs or shoplifting 


Radicalisation is very similar to CSE in the sense that a child is groomed to be radicalised. The abuser must gain the child's trust and the groomer will deploy the same tactics because it is all exploitation. The abuser will give the child gifts or love and make them feel like they belong. Then they manipulate the child to believe that their beliefs are the right ones, however extreme they may be. They will then convince them to perform terrible acts to show others that their beliefs are the superior ones. 

Signs and Symptoms 

  • Isolating themselves from family and friends 
  • Talking as if from a scripted speech 
  • Unwillingness or inability to discuss their views 
  • A sudden disrespectful attitude towards others 
  • Increased levels of anger 
  • Increased secretiveness, especially around internet use. 

Along with the others, you have to be very careful that this child is being radicalised and not just going through puberty. 

Part 1 of this blog series focuses on Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse and Neglect.

Part 3 of this blog series focuses on Peer-on-Peer Abuse, Female Genital Mutilation, Bullying and Online Bullying.

Part 4 of this blog series focuses on Forced marriages, Child trafficking and  Criminal Exploitations and Gangs.  


Seek Support

If you have any concerns, please speak to your safeguarding lead or contact the organisations below 

  • NSPCC Helpline - call 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk
  • Childline - call 0800 1111 or use the 1-2-1 online chat
  • Education Support helpline - immediate, confidential emotional support for teaching staff 0800 562 561
  • If you have any concerns about yourself or if this has been a trigger for you, please call The Samaritans on 116 123
Posted Date

22nd March 2022

Vikkey Chaffe
Head of Community Relations

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