Abuse at Home

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Is there abuse or violence happening in your home? If so, there are some important things you need to know.

There are different kinds of abuse. Abuse is using pain, fear or humiliation to get your way. Abuse can be:

  • Physical—inflicting pain by pushing, restraining, pinching, shaking, slapping, punching, choking, and so on.
  • Emotional or psychological—name-calling, making threats, putting people down, humiliating and criticizing.
  • Sexual—inappropriate or unwanted advances or touching for a sexual purpose, or pressuring a person to have sex or to do sexual things he or she doesn't want to do.

There is no excuse for abuse. Healthy relationships do not include abuse. Period. It's OK to have strong feelings, but it's not OK to express them by hurting others. No one has a right to abuse another person. And no one deserves to be abused. Ever.

You are not to blame.

If there is violence in your home, whether against your parent, one of your siblings, or you, you are not to blame. The person who is abusing or being violent is responsible for his or her actions.

You are not alone. Abuse is an ugly secret in many homes. Lots of other children and teens experience abuse at home. More importantly, there are people who can help. They can help:

  • People who have experienced abuse.
  • People who have seen someone else being abused.
  • People who abuse.

If there is abuse or violence in your home, seek help

If abuse or violence is being directed at one of your family members or at you, seek help right away! You may want to protect your family and not break the family secret, but it is very important that you tell.

If you or someone else in your family is in immediate DANGER:

  • Call 9-1-1 (if you can, go to another room or a neighbor's place to call).
  • Don't get in the middle or try to protect the person who is being hurt.
  • Stay away, and find a safe place in the house or at a neighbor's.

If you aren't feeling safe at home:

  • Tell a teacher or school counselor.
  • Talk to an adult you can trust, like the parent of a close friend.
  • Contact the police or a social worker.

It's important to find a supportive adult who can help, not just a friend. While it's good to have friends who will listen to you and support you, they may not know what to do to get help.

Growing up with abuse doesn't mean that you will continue the cycle.

If you are worried about having the same patterns of abuse and violence in your own relationships as a teen or an adult, there is good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. Children who grow up in families where there is abuse learn from it, and can carry what they've learned into future relationships. They can learn that in order to get their way, they have to use coercion—and can become abusers. Or their self-esteem is so low that they feel they don't deserve better—and they can become victims.

Now here's the good news: you have a choice. It is possible to unlearn the behavior you have learned from your family. And the key to making that choice is AWARENESS.

Here's what you can do to break the cycle:

  • Find out about the differences between healthy and abusive relationships.
  • Find out about dating violence, so you know what to watch for in your relationships.
  • Seek counseling. A counselor can help you deal with your own feelings about what you have seen and experienced. He or she can also help you develop healthy ways to deal with your anger.
  • Feel better about who you are. Remember that the violence you experienced or saw was not your fault. A counselor can also help you to improve your confidence and self-esteem.

Wondering how to find a counselor? Talk to your school counselor, your family doctor or another adult you trust. Ask him or her to help you find out about programs in your community that can help. (Most communities have services for victims of abuse and for abusers.)

Q & A

Do I have to take sides, or choose one parent over the other?

No, you don't. You have the right to love and be loved by both parents.

If you are feeling pressured to take sides, and you feel you are caught in the middle of your parents' problems, tell them.

What will my friends say when they find out about my parents splitting up?

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. Some feel embarrassed about what is happening.

Separation and divorce are very common these days. That means that many people have been through it themselves, and most probably know someone who has.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. They'll know that you're still you, even though your family is changing.