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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Thu 29-Aug-19 14:05:41

Guest post: “Many children don't realise that they are victims, and so we rely on the community to be our eyes and ears”

Detective Sergeant Tanya Robinson works in child safeguarding for the Northumbria Police Department. In this post, she discusses child abuse and the signs we can look out for

DS Tanya Robinson

Northumbria Police Department

Posted on: Thu 29-Aug-19 14:05:41

(8 comments )

Lead photo

“I can't stress enough the role you can play in helping protect vulnerable children."

I get asked a lot, how can you deal with offenders who abuse children when you have two young girls? Well, it's probably the reason why I do it. Having the girls has massively changed the way I feel about what I do and makes me even more determined to protect other children out there.

It's about balance; whilst it can be hard not to take work home, it does make you realise how lucky your children are to have a loving parent who can keep them safe, clean and looked after. Sadly, not all children have that - there are children who are suffering in silence or living in an environment where emotional, physical or sexual abuse is normalised and they don't see anything wrong with it.

Child abuse is such a vast area and can be anything from neglect, emotional or physical abuse or sexual abuse. We have dealt with cases where children have suffocated because parents have put them in bed with them while under the influence of drink or drugs. We had a case of a man who would intentionally target single women, specifically with children, and start a relationship with them with the intention of sexually abusing their children. We even investigated a case where a mother who had concerns her partner was cheating on her so she checked his phone. She didn’t find any signs of an affair but instead found a self-filmed video of him physically assaulting her young baby.

Some investigations that come to us are historic and the victims have been suffering for years at the hands of their abusers.


Some investigations that come to us are historic and the victims have been suffering for years at the hands of their abusers. Quite often they are groomed from a young age by family members or close family friends, and it and it is not until they are older that they realise they are in fact victims of abuse.

Whilst these are all awful cases, thankfully people are becoming more aware of child abuse and are reporting concerns, which is absolutely the right thing to do. Many of the reports we receive are from concerned teachers, carers, social workers or even parents who notice signs in other children.

I can't stress enough the role you can play in helping protect vulnerable children. Many children don't realise that they are victims, and so we rely on the community to be our eyes and ears. We do a lot of work to educate people about spotting the signs of child abuse and actively encourage people to report it.

We aren’t here to judge any parent or parent-shame - we are here to help. In cases of neglect there could be an issue at home such as mental health problems, financial worries, being overwhelmed, or a parent may even be a victim of domestic abuse or violence themselves. They need help, and by working with our partners we are able to guide parents to the help they need.

Partnerships are crucial in what we do, and by working with social services, health, education, housing (amongst many others!) we can provide a wrap-around service to best protect children from further abuse.

It is a tough job but I couldn't be prouder to do it; we are looking out for those who can't look out for themselves.

If you have concerns for any child or young person - if something doesn't feel or look right - then please report it. Use your parental instincts - it could be nothing, but it could just save a life.

Spotting the signs

-Unexplained bruising or marks on a child in unusual places
-Being constantly tired and pale.
-Looking dirty or unkempt or having inadequate clothing
-Poor hygiene – bad teeth, unwashed, visibly dirty or smelly
-Often hungry or malnourished
-Displaying violent or sexualised behaviour that is inappropriate for their age
-Poor language and communication skills
-Withdrawn from other children or change in behaviour
-Signs of being left at home alone or looking after younger siblings on their own

For more information about child abuse search NSPCC or Northumbria Police online or follow @NorthumbriaPol #proudtoprotect

By DS Tanya Robinson

Twitter: @NorthumbriaPol

hayfeverlastsforever Fri 30-Aug-19 15:04:29

Thank you for sharing this OP

ineednewhair Fri 30-Aug-19 18:21:19

Thank you for this information OP

NothingWithoutEffort Sat 31-Aug-19 08:09:00

Good post, thank you.

CheeseChipsMayo Sat 31-Aug-19 09:57:30

Great post OP.I grew up thinking my home was normal like you mentioned..the conditioning&lies &it was only as a teen when i was finally able to sleep over at friends houses i learnt all families are different but abuse isnt part of a normal home&id moved out by15..I eventually ended up in a long term relationship with my best friend-a guy id known years-so it broke my heart when he started getting physical after he was drunk-shoving,grabbing&blocking me trying to leave a room-needing to belittle me in nightclubs..i actually made excuses for him for4years until he pushed my&held me on top of a wall heater&i needed burns treatment on backs of thighs..then a year later graduated to a proper punch in the face,thought my nose was broken&had2blackeyes..Putting make-up on to hide it&hearing my excuses to people at work reminded me so clearly of my mum/dad&our family violence&all the secrecy/lies id grown up with that i told him i loved him but had to leave him&i never gave him 'another chance'-to this day he still maintains hes never loved anyone more&has been with a partner9years &never touched her..People need to speak up&get involved.

MiaFarrowsWheelbarrow Tue 03-Sep-19 07:16:05

Thank you for writing this, I hope someone will read your post and help a child if necessary.

I was sexually abused by my step father as a child in the 70's and 80's and I know my behaviour changed and I became withdrawn but was labelled as "shy and quiet". I see photos of myself during that time period and can see the physical changes in me and my body language, cringing away from him in the photos even and yet no one picked up on it enough to help me. It affected my whole life yet eventually I was strong enough to go to the police and last year he was jailed for 24 years for the abuse against me. I would love to have my childhood again without him as I feel I may have been a happier and different person.

Please don't ignore any signs or think you are causing trouble, in reality you could be saving that child and their siblings from harm.

DSTanyaRobinson Thu 05-Sep-19 10:48:14

Thanks for your messages and feedback. It is great to open up the conversation about abuse and raise that awareness.

If you do have any concerns about any child or vulnerable adult, please report it to your local police force, to a school, charity or local authority. It may be nothing but it could also be saving someone from a lifetime of abuse.

DSTanyaRobinson Thu 05-Sep-19 10:49:55
Thanks MiaFarrowsWheelbarrow for your feedback. I have to say you have been incredibly brave by coming forward and reporting the abuse you suffered as a child and I’m so pleased you did. And thank you for sharing your story because by speaking out, it can help courage others to come forward who may still be suffering in silence. I think it is also really important to speak out as you are potentially saving others from becoming victims in the future.

MiaFarrowsWheelbarrow

Thank you for writing this, I hope someone will read your post and help a child if necessary.

I was sexually abused by my step father as a child in the 70's and 80's and I know my behaviour changed and I became withdrawn but was labelled as "shy and quiet". I see photos of myself during that time period and can see the physical changes in me and my body language, cringing away from him in the photos even and yet no one picked up on it enough to help me. It affected my whole life yet eventually I was strong enough to go to the police and last year he was jailed for 24 years for the abuse against me. I would love to have my childhood again without him as I feel I may have been a happier and different person.

Please don't ignore any signs or think you are causing trouble, in reality you could be saving that child and their siblings from harm.

DSTanyaRobinson Thu 05-Sep-19 10:51:49
Thank you CheeseChipsMayo.
It sounds like you have had such a difficult start in life and to then go on and be abused as a young adult is just awful. Sadly we do see this happening where it has become so normalised to victims that it’s what they come to expect. You have been so brave in being able to breakaway from this and potentially saved someone else from becoming a victim. We do a lot of work in schools, working with children as young as four, as part of an early intervention scheme. This helps children understand what abuse is and what it may look like and what to do if you are being abused in the hope this can prevent any sort of prolonged abuse. But absolutely right, ultimately we need people to speak out and have their voice heard.

CheeseChipsMayo

Great post OP.I grew up thinking my home was normal like you mentioned..the conditioning&lies &it was only as a teen when i was finally able to sleep over at friends houses i learnt all families are different but abuse isnt part of a normal home&id moved out by15..I eventually ended up in a long term relationship with my best friend-a guy id known years-so it broke my heart when he started getting physical after he was drunk-shoving,grabbing&blocking me trying to leave a room-needing to belittle me in nightclubs..i actually made excuses for him for4years until he pushed my&held me on top of a wall heater&i needed burns treatment on backs of thighs..then a year later graduated to a proper punch in the face,thought my nose was broken&had2blackeyes..Putting make-up on to hide it&hearing my excuses to people at work reminded me so clearly of my mum/dad&our family violence&all the secrecy/lies id grown up with that i told him i loved him but had to leave him&i never gave him 'another chance'-to this day he still maintains hes never loved anyone more&has been with a partner9years &never touched her..People need to speak up&get involved.

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