Child abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver acts in a way that causes a child to be hurt physically or harmed emotionally, or fails to act to prevent such harm. When a person is abused as a child, the harm inflicted can impact them throughout their lives. People who abuse children – and people who fail to report child abuse if they know it is happening – can face jail time and penalties. Parents and caregivers who abuse children can also lose custody and even parental rights to their children.
Why does abuse happen? There’s no easy answer to this question. Several factors can contribute to a greater chance for child abuse within a family. For example, parents or caregivers who were abused as children or abuse alcohol or drugs.
The effects of abuse. Even if the abuse happened a long time ago, it can cause you to feel emotions that might stay with you for years. There’s often a spectrum of feelings that you may have to work through in order to begin healing.
Taking the next step. Recovering from abuse can be a long process. It’s important that you have support from people who love you as well as trained professionals to work through your feelings. Here are a few suggestions of where you can go to get help:
Call the police. If at any time you’re in an unsafe or potentially abusive situation, call 911 or your local police immediately.
Talk to someone. Although it might be difficult at first, it’s important to tell someone you trust if you are being abused or have been abused. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone in person, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
Join a support group. A counselor or medical doctor can help you find a support group in your area.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.