Types of Abuse: Peer-on-Peer Abuse, Female Genital Mutilation, Bullying and Online Bullying

This blog is part 3 in 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 peer-on-peer abuse, female genital mutilation, bullying and online bullying. This may be triggering for some readers, discretion is advised. 

Peer-on-Peer abuse 

You can read a more in-depth look at Peer on Peer abuse in our blog here. 

Peer-on-peer abuse is a growing concern and one that we have little reliable data on at present. Childline reported a 29% increase in children seeking help due to peer-on-peer sexual abuse. There is evidence to suggest that criminal exploitation and sexual abuse, both directly and in the form of grooming, are among the biggest concerns here.

Symptoms of Peer-on-Peer abuse can include: 

  • Physical and sexual abuse 
  • Sexual harassment and violence 
  • Emotional harm 
  • On and offline bullying 
  • Teenage relationship abuse 
  • Gang activity 

This list is not exhaustive. The perpetrator and victim should be of a similar age and be under 18 years old. 

Research suggests that girls and young women are more at risk of abusive behaviours perpetrated by their peers; however, it can also affect boys and young men, those with special educational needs and disabilities, LGBTQ children and young people, looked after children and those who are from different communities. 

Scenarios may include a child or young person being forced or coerced into sexual activity by peers. 

 

Bullying including Cyber-Bullying 

Bullying (including Cyberbullying) is defined as “behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, which intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally.” 

Bullying can start with seemingly trivial events - such as name-calling. It can happen anywhere - at school, at home or online, at any time. It’s usually repeated over time and can cause physical and emotional hurt. A child that is being bullied may feel like there’s no escape. This abuse is prevalent in the real world as well as the virtual, and as such can go unnoticed. 

Of concern are the people that dismiss peer-on-peer abuse as ‘children being children’. Policies and practices should ensure that this is never the case and it is dealt with as stringently as any other safeguarding concern. 

  • ‘Cyberbullying’: involves sending inappropriate or hurtful text messages, emails or instant messages, posting malicious material online (e.g. on social networking websites) or sending or posting offensive or degrading images and videos. Cyberbullying was of particular concern during the COVID-19 lockdowns when children and young people were working remotely 
  • Sexual, Sexist and Transphobic Bullying: includes any behaviour, whether physical or nonphysical, where sexuality is used as a weapon 
  • Homophobic Bullying: targets someone because of their sexual orientation (or perceived sexual orientation) 
  • Disablist Bullying: targets a young person solely based on their disability 

 

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 

FGM is when a female's genitals are deliberately altered or removed for non-medical reasons. It's also known as 'female circumcision' or 'cutting', but has many other names: 

  • Female circumcision 
  • Cutting 
  • Sunna 
  • Gudniin 
  • Halalays 
  • Tahur 
  • Megrez 
  • Khitan 

FGM is a form of child abuse. It's dangerous and a criminal offence in the UK. We know: 

  • There are no medical reasons to carry out FGM 
  • It's often performed by someone with no medical training, using instruments such as knives, scalpels, scissors, glass or razor blades 
  • Children are rarely given an anaesthetic or antiseptic treatment and are often forcibly restrained 
  • It's used to control female sexuality and can cause long-lasting damage to physical and emotional health. 

FGM can happen at different times in a girl or woman's life, including: 

  • When a baby is new-born 
  • During childhood or as a teenager 
  • Just before marriage 
  • During pregnancy 

Signs and symptoms 

It is hugely important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of FGM and you have to be aware of who may be at risk of being a victim of FGM. 

These are signs that FGM might be about to take place: 

  • A relative or someone who is known as a 'cutter' visiting from abroad
  • A special occasion or ceremony takes place where a girl 'becomes a woman' or is 'prepared for marriage'
  • A female relative, like a mother, sister or aunt has undergone FGM
  • A family arranges a long holiday overseas or visits a family abroad during the summer holidays
  • A girl has an unexpected or long absence from school
  • A girl runs away – or plans to run away - from home 

These are signs that FGM might have taken place: 

  • Having difficulty walking, standing or sitting
  • Spending longer in the bathroom or toilet
  • Appearing quiet, anxious or depressed
  • Acting differently after an absence from school or college
  • Asking for help – though they might not be explicit about the problem because they're scared or embarrassed

Who is at risk? 

Girls living in communities that practise FGM are most at risk. It can happen in the UK or abroad. 
In the UK, the Home Office has identified girls and women from certain communities as being more at risk: 

  • Somali 
  • Kenyan 
  • Ethiopian 
  • Sierra Leonean 
  • Sudanese 
  • Egyptian 
  • Nigerian 
  • Eritrean 
  • Yemeni 
  • Kurdish 
  • Indonesian

Support your parents in having healthy conversations with their children by using the PANTs website. The National FGM Centre has more information and some excellent resources to support training. 

 

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

Part 2 of this blog series focuses on Emotional abuse, Child Sexual Exploitation and Radicalisation.

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
Author
Vikkey Chaffe
Head of Community Relations

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