What to do if abused

2011/06/10 in Health, Relationships

At one time or another, we all feel like we’ve been treated unfairly. Maybe you’ve been punished more severely than you feel was justified. You may feel hurt, angry, or even afraid.


Or, perhaps you’re constantly being put down and it’s finally getting to you. Is this child abuse? We will explain what child abuse is, and what you can do about it if you are being abused.

Another word for abuse is mistreatment. Abuse can be emotional mistreatment, physical mistreatment, or sexual mistreatment. It can also mean neglect. We’re going to explain what each of these means. Please listen carefully, because people sometimes confuse discipline with abuse, especially if they’re very angry about what happened.

There is a fine line between discipline and abuse. If you’re grounded, perhaps even been slapped or spanked, your anger or hurt may make you feel that you’re being abused. Maybe one of your parents lost his or her cool and really decked you. Really, any violence such as being hit with a fist or an object is inappropriate and can be labeled, “abuse.” This kind of action can result in a very serious injury. The following descriptions of different types of abuse may help you figure out if you’re being abused or just disciplined.

Does it seem like your parents constantly hassle you, or that they don’t love you or care about you at all? Or that whatever you do is never good enough or important enough for them to be pleased by it? Do they call you names that really cut you down — names like stupid, foolish, lazy, good-for-nothing? Are you starting to feel really down on yourself? If so, you could be emotionally or verbally abused.

If your parents don’t bother to feed you, or if they often leave you alone, maybe you’re being neglected. Do you have adequate clothing, and medical care when you need it? Your house might be really filthy. Maybe your parents don’t seem to care if you go to school or stay home, or stay out late, or all night. These are all signs of neglect.

Physical abuse is the most obvious form of mistreatment. If either of your parents has given you bruises, welts, cuts, burns, beatings or hits you with a fist or an object, you are being physically abused. This type of abuse can lead to serious injury. It needs to be reported so that you both can get help.

In a case of sexual abuse, a parent, relative, or friend of the family might kiss you or touch your body in ways that make you feel uncomfortable or that you think aren’t right. Perhaps that person wants you to touch his or her body. These things may make you feel ashamed or guilty. You should get help for this problem before things go further, or before this happens to other kids in the family. You may want to call another message that talks about sexual abuse. It’s called, “Sexual Abuse: Is Someone Is Touching You?”

If any of these things are happening to you, help is available. You do have the legal right to question or report a situation that could be abuse. More important is that you have the legal right to get help and protection. If you need help see your physician, pediatrician or a psychologist. Your county social services could also help you. Other resources are shelters, respite centers, and group homes for teens. In an emergency, if you feel you need immediate protection, call your local police. If you call one of these people or agencies, your call will be kept confidential. You don’t even have to tell them your name if you don’t want to. They will answer any questions you have and will try to help you with your problem. If things are really bad and you’re afraid to go home or stay at home, they will find a safe place for you to stay for now. Although the reporting of the problem may lead to unpleasantness, this is sometimes necessary if abuse is to be stopped. They want to help you and your family with its problems.

If you don’t want to call your local Child Protective Services, Sheriff, or Police Department, but want more information, call 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336(TEEN).

Remember, there is a fine line between discipline and abuse. Are you feeling hurt and angry because of discipline you feel is unfair, or because you’re being abused. Don’t be afraid of getting help. No one is going to punish you. The physician or agency you contact will try to help you and your family. Thank you.


Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.