Grown-ups are usually there to help and encourage kids, right?
They take care of them, help them learn how to do things, show them
the right way to behave, and encourage the good things that kids
do. Most adults treat kids well. But some adults hurt kids rather
than help them. Another word for hurting someone is
You might have a picture in your head about what child abuse is
like. When it happens, abuse (say:
-buse) can affect all kinds of kids, no matter where they live, how
much money their families have, or who they live with. A kid can be
abused by a parent, a stepparent, another relative, a babysitter,
teacher, coach, or a bigger kid. Child abuse can happen at home,
school, child care, or even in a church or other religious
Tell Right Away
Any time a kid is being abused that kid should tell a trusted
adult right away. This can be hard because the abuser might have
frightened the boy or girl into staying quiet. No matter what the
abuser says, abuse is always wrong and there are different ways a
kid can ask for help and get it.
If a kid can't think of a trusted adult to tell, he or she
can call a special telephone number called a helpline, such as
1-800-4-A-CHILD. If you know someone who is being abused, you can
help by telling your parent or another adult who can help.
What Are the Types of Abuse?
Hitting, constant yelling, or unwelcome touches can all be kinds
of abuse. A kid who is being abused can experience different types
of abuse or just one kind. It helps to understand the different
types of abuse: physical, sexual, verbal or emotional, and
Physical abuse is hitting hard with a hand or an object like a
belt, especially hits that leave bruises or cuts. Shaking, pushing,
choking, painful grabbing, and kicking can also be physical abuse.
Your body has private parts. These are the parts that are covered
by your bathing suit or underwear: breasts, vagina, and bottom for
girls, and penis and bottom for boys. If an adult or older kid
touches a kid's private parts or tells a kid to touch theirs,
it is sexual abuse. When this happens, the abuser might tell the
kid that this touching is a secret and that they can't tell
anyone. But a kid does not have to keep this secret. Tell a trusted
adult, or more than one, until someone takes action.
To explain sexual abuse, people talk about good touches and bad
touches. We all know what a good touch feels like. A good touch
might be a hug from your mom or dad, a snuggle with your grandma
for a story, or a cuddle with your pet. But some touches feel bad
or confusing. Your body is yours and you should be able to tell
people when you don't like them to touch you. Even if you
don't mind doing it or are curious, or want to make that person
feel happy, sexual touching between adults and kids is not OK.
Verbal or emotional abuse:
This kind of abuse can happen without touching. It can be verbal
abuse if someone yells all the time, calls the kid mean names, or
threatens to leave the kid or have him or her adopted. All kids
deserve to have adults in their lives who love and support them as
they grow up. It's common for parents get angry with their kids
once in a while, but if there's yelling, punishing, and
threatening too much of the time, a kid can start feeling really
bad about himself or herself. And just like with physical forms of
abuse, it's a good idea to tell a trusted adult this is
Neglect happens when kids live in a home where the adults don't
give them basic stuff that all kids need - like food, clean
clothes, and a bed to sleep in. When parents or caretakers neglect
kids, the kids may not get baths, sleep under warm blankets, or get
checkups or medicine when they need them.
It can be hard for a kid to tell someone that he or she is not
getting these important things. A parent or caregiver might have
troubles such as using alcohol or drugs. But no matter why it is
happening, a kid needs to tell someone. Then, the kid can start
getting the stuff he or she needs and the parent or caregiver can
get help, too.
How to Tell
By now you know it's important for a kid to tell someone if
they think they are being abused. But how does a kid tell? Here are
- Talk to a trusted adult in person.
- Talk to a trusted adult on the phone.
- Write a note, an email, or send a letter to the trusted
- Tell someone at school, like a
, school nurse, teacher, or coach.
- Tell a friend's mom or dad.
- Tell someone who answers the phone at a hotline service, such
The way a kid tells and whom a kid tells will be different
depending on the situation. The most important thing is to tell
someone - or even several people - until someone takes action to
stop the abuse from happening. A kid who tells on an abuser might
be helping other kids, too. Some abusers hurt more than one kid.
It takes a lot of courage to talk about this kind of thing, and
sometimes it takes a while to feel strong enough to talk about it.
That's OK. Just know that, in the end, telling a safe person is
the bravest thing a kid can do. It can feel really good when a kid
takes steps to stay safe and protect other kids from getting
Michelle New, PhD
Date reviewed: November 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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