Find answers to some big questions and help with what to do next from the team here at Children’s Advocacy Center.
What Is Child Abuse?
Child abuse happens when an adult — like a parent, family member, or someone close to the family — hurts a teenager or child. Abuse can include an adult physically hurting a young person or having sexual contact with them. Abuse can also be emotional, like making a child feel worthless or not providing the care they need.
Young children and teens in all different kinds of families can suffer child abuse.
Every family has problems from time to time, but most adults do not abuse children. It’s important to remember that child abuse is never your fault.
How Can I Tell If I’m Being Abused?
If you’ve lived with abuse for some time, you may not know that what is happening is abuse. Things like hitting or constant yelling might be a normal part of your life, but these behaviors are abuse, and abuse is NOT normal. Your abuser might also have convinced you that the abuse is your fault, but that is never the case.
Not sure if you are being abused? It can help to know about the different types of abuse and what they involve:
- Physical abuse — actions that cause injury, pain, or leave marks, including hitting, shaking, pinching, choking, beating, burning, and throwing.
- Emotional abuse — harmful behavior, including yelling, swearing, name-calling, constant criticism, and withholding emotional needs like love or security.
- Sexual abuse — any kind of sexual activity involving a child, including touching a child’s private parts directly or with an object, having a child touch an adult’s private parts, showing pictures or videos of people without clothes or in sexual acts, taking pictures or videos of the child without clothes or engaged in sexual acts and then using those pictures to threaten the child.
- Neglect — not providing basic needs, including not feeding the child, medical care, a safe place to live, or proper clothing, and leaving a child alone for long amounts of time.
If you’ve experienced any of the above, you might be a victim of abuse. Abuse often has a serious effect on how we view ourselves and those around us. If you’re facing abuse, you might:
- Have trouble concentrating, sleeping, or eating
- Have headaches or stomach aches
- Feel angry, afraid, anxious, sad, or confused
- Be afraid of being hurt again
- Feel ashamed or blame yourself
- Have trouble with relationships with friends and others
- Miss school or do poorly in school
- Use drugs or alcohol
What Should I Do If I Am Being Abused?
It can be hard, but the most important thing to do if you think you’re being abused is to tell someone you trust. It can feel hard to find someone to tell your secret to, but please know that there are people in your life who want to help.
If you don’t think you can tell anyone at home, look for someone to tell at school, like your teacher, or a friend’s mom or dad.
If you’re in danger or need help right away, call 911. Tell the operator your name and where you are so they can send help.
Even if your abuser says something bad will happen if you tell, it’s important to reach out for help. Keeping the abuse a secret does not protect you.
Not everyone will be ready to help you, but don’t give up. Tell someone else, and someone else again if you need to. Keep telling adults until you get the help you need.
Telling someone about being abused can be scary, but telling someone can help things get better. If you’re too afraid to tell someone, you can reach out to the ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or one of the other hotlines below for guidance and support.
Resources for Support
Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline
Call, text, or chat online 24/7 for support and guidance. All contact is confidential.
Texas Child Protective Services
Call 24/7 to anonymously report abuse and get help.
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Call or chat online 24/7 to be connected to crisis support and resources in your area. All calls are confidential.
National Runaway Switchboard
Call, text, or chat online 24/7 to get crisis support and resources in your area. All contact is confidential.