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Breast ironing (also called breast flattening) is when young girls' breasts are damaged over time to flatten them and delay their development. Sometimes, an elastic belt, or binder, is used to stop them from growing.
Breast ironing usually starts with the first signs of puberty and is most often done by female relatives. In most cases, the abuser incorrectly thinks they're behaving in the best interests of the child. They believe flattening the breasts will make the child less 'womanly'. They hope this will protect the girl from harassment, rape, abduction and early forced marriage, and help them stay in education.
Although there's no specific law within the UK around breast ironing, it's a form of child abuse.
Find out what the signs of this abuse are, what you can do if you’re concerned about someone and how to get help if you’ve been affected.
There are many signs that breast ironing could be happening to a girl. These include:
If you suspect someone is in immediate danger, call 999 now. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.
If it isn’t an emergency, please get in touch in any of these other ways:
If you’re a child, you could also speak to someone you trust, like a friend, a teacher or another adult.
If you’re a professional working with children, remember you have a responsibility to refer your concerns to Children’s Social Care through your local council.
A partnership between Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association (LGA) to improve FGM services.
Safeguarding children from sexual violence, CSE and harmful practices.
Came Women and Girls Development Organisation (CAWOGIDO)
A charity raising awareness and information on breast ironing.
An international charity working to end FGM through research and local initiatives.
A free, private and confidential service where you can talk about anything.