Chest binding could be child abuse, police say

Concerns have been raised over reports of a charity sending breast binders to children without parental discretion

Published

Chest binding could be classed as child abuse, says the Metropolitan Police, following concerns over the actions of a trans charity.

Scotland Yard has confirmed that they, along with social services, will investigate reports of a child using a breast binder, which is used to flatten the chest.

The revelation comes after an investigation by The Telegraph that found trans charity Mermaids had been discreetly sending binders to children as young as 13 and 14 whose parents will not let them use one.

Scotland Yard says reports of breast binders will be investigated.
Scotland Yard says reports of breast binders will be investigated.

On its website, the Metropolitan Police define the practice of “breast ironing (also called breast flattening)”.

They say it is a form of "child abuse" and that “sometimes, an elastic belt, or binder, is used to stop them from growing”.

The description led to questions over the difference between this process and chest binding.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman told The Telegraph: “The supply of a breast binder on its own is not a criminal offence.

“However, if an individual case of someone using a breast binder or undergoing the practice of breast ironing is reported to police, it would be investigated jointly with social services as potential child abuse.

"The same approach would be taken regardless of culture or community.”

Mermaids are yet to comment on the findings of The Telegraph's investigation, but said it takes a "harm reduction position" that providing children with a binder, along with safety guidelines “is preferable to the likely alternative of unsafe practices and/or continued or increasing dysphoria”.

Before Mermaids resort to sending a binder, they inform children of a study by the John Hopkins School of Public Health, that finds 97 percent of adult users experienced health impacts from binding including pain, rib fractures, changes to the spine, headaches, respiratory and skin infections and muscle wasting.

According to the study, "commercial binders were the binding method most consistently associated with negative health outcomes, possibly because such binders have the potential to provide more compression than other binding methods".