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Speak Out Campaign - Stop Child Sexual Abuse

Do you have immediate concerns about a child or young person’s safety? If so, please telephone the Multi Agency Referral Unit (MARU) on 0300 123 1116 or speak to the police. 


If you are located on the Isles of Scilly, please telephone the Children’s Social Care Team on 01720 424483. For Out of Hours enquiries call 01720 422699.

At a time when children are being asked to socially distance, signs of abuse may also remain hidden. 

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The coronavirus pandemic has meant that some children are now more at risk than ever. They are trapped in potentially unsafe and abusive home environments.

As a response to this, Our Safeguarding Partnership for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have developed the 'Speak Out' campaign. This is to raise awareness of sexual abuse in families and to help to keep children and young people safe.

We want to help you to recognise the signs of sexual abuse and to understand what to do if you think a child or young person is in danger.

When a child or young person is sexually abused, they may not understand that what’s happening is abuse, or that it’s wrong. They might also be too afraid to tell someone what’s going on.

We all have a responsibility to know the signs and speak out against child sexual abuse. You don’t have to be completely sure; anything you tell us could help us to protect a child or young person at risk from sexual abuse.

If you suspect something’s not right – speak to the Multi Agency Referral Unit and report it. 

Together, we can help to stop child sexual abuse from happening.

To spot potential signs of child sexual abuse, look out for changes in the following in a child or young person:

  • Appearance: such as:
    • unusual injuries
    • infections
    • consistently poor hygiene
  • Behaviour: such as:
    • being withdrawn
    • overly anxious, disruptive or self-harming
    • any other sudden changes in behaviour
  • Communication: such as:
    • talking aggressively
    • using sexual language
    • displaying sexual behaviour
    • becoming secretive

You don’t have to be absolutely certain. If you’re concerned a child is being sexually abused or their safety is at risk, speak to someone.

You can report your concern to the Multi-Agency Referral Unit. They will look at what information should be provided and decide what steps to take next.

The information you provide could be the missing piece of information needed to keep a child or young person safe. 

There are 2 types of sexual abuse – contact and non-contact abuse. Sexual abuse happens in person, by phone and or online.

Contact abuse is where an abuser makes physical contact with a child. This includes:

  • sexual touching of any part of a child's body, whether they're clothed or not
  • using a body part or object to rape or penetrate a child
  • forcing a child to take part in sexual activities
  • making a child undress or touch someone else.
  • Contact abuse can include touching, kissing and oral sex – sexual abuse isn't just penetrative.

Non-contact abuse is where a child is abused without being touched by the abuser. This can be in person or online or by phone and includes:

  • exposing or flashing
  • showing pornography
  • exposing a child to sexual acts
  • making them masturbate
  • forcing a child to make, view or share child abuse images or videos
  • making, viewing or distributing child abuse images or videos
  • forcing a child to take part in sexual activities or conversations online or through a smartphone.

The Children’s Commissioner defines CSA in the family environment as:

‘sexual abuse perpetrated or facilitated in or out of the home, against children under the age of 18, by a family member, or someone otherwise linked to the family context or environment, whether or not they are a family member.’ 

This means that the abuse may be carried out by a close relative, such as a father, uncle, stepfather or sibling. Children and young people may also be abused by someone less familiar, for example, a family friends, neighbour or babysitter. 

It’s not just men who commit sexual abuse. Less commonly, abusers can also be female, such as a mother, aunt, cousin or stepmother.

Any child is at risk of being sexually abused. It can happen to both boys and girls.

In most cases of sexual abuse, the abuser is known to the victim. They could be a family member, a friend or someone in a position of trust or authority. 

Some children are more at risk of sexual abuse. Children with disabilities are more likely to be sexually abused – especially those who are unable to tell someone what's happening or don't understand what's happening to them is abuse.

Babies and young children who are unable to talk are also at higher risk. Remember children rarely “tell” using words; their behaviour is how they tell us.

Download our free resources

Tackling child sexual abuse is everyone’s responsibility. We need young people, parents and professionals across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to read and share the information on this website.

Follow the link above to download some free resources. You can help to encourage people to come forward and report suspected child sexual abuse.

Who are we?


Our Safeguarding Partnership for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is a multi-agency group of partners. We work together to promote, safeguard and protect the welfare of children and young people across Cornwall and the IoS.

In addition to this campaign, we have developed a dedicated website. This has a host of information and resources on safeguarding. It is suitable for

  • professionals
  • parents
  • carers
  • children
  • young people

Further information: