It's sad to think that there can be abuse in someone's home -
but it happens every day.
Amy's finger was so swollen that she couldn't get her ring off.
She didn't think her finger was broken because she could still
bend it. Even though it had been a week since her dad had
grabbed her hand and then shoved her into the wall, her finger
still hurt a lot. She had thought it would be OK by now, but she
decided to wait a few more days to see if it got any better so
she wouldn't have to tell her mom. Her dad had warned her not
to say anything, just as he had all the other times he hurt her.
He called her lots of names - and accused her of all sorts of things
she didn't do. He had done it before - especially after drinking.
Amy was worried about how her mom would react if she knew what
had happened, so Amy didn't want to tell her.
Amy has been abused and she doesn't even realize it.
As strange as it may sound, sometimes people have trouble
recognizing that they are being abused. It may be especially difficult
to recognize for someone who has lived with abuse for many years.
For them, it's just the way things are and they may feel like nothing
can be done about it, so why bother.
Abuse can happen to girls or guys. Abuse can happen in wealthy
families with fancy homes - or in poor families. Whether it's a single
or two-parent family, and no matter the color of the family or their
religion, there can be abuse. Even if the family is well-known and
respected in the community, there can be abuse.
Every family has arguments. And in most families, there are times when
punishment or discipline - like removing privileges, grounding, or being
sent to your room - are used. It's rare that a family doesn't have rough
times, disagreements, and anger. That's all normal. It becomes a problem,
though, when the punishment is physically or emotionally damaging.
That's called abuse.
Abuse can take many forms. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal,
or a combination of any or all of those. It can also be neglect.
Physical abuse is more obvious. It may be any kind of hitting, shaking,
burning, pinching, biting, choking, throwing, whipping, paddling, beating
and other actions that cause physical injury, leave marks, or produce
significant physical pain. Using belts, whips, or other objects as a form
of discipline may be physical abuse.
Sexual abuse is any type of sexual contact between an adult and child.
It can also be sexual contact between a significantly older child and a
Emotional abuse can be difficult to pin down because there are no physical
signs to look for. Sure, people yell at each other, express anger, and call
each other names sometimes. Expressing anger can be healthy sometimes.
But just like physical abuse can cause physical damage, emotional abuse
can cause emotional damage or scars. It's hard to define, but emotional abuse
might include a parent constantly belittling or threatening a child.
Neglect is probably the hardest type of abuse to define. Some teens, for
instance, may think it's neglect if their mom or dad doesn't give them
something like a new computer when they want one, but that's not it.
Neglect happens when a child doesn't have adequate food, housing, clothes,
medical care, or supervision. Emotional neglect happens when a parent
doesn't provide enough emotional support and might include deliberately and
consistently paying little or no attention to a child.
What Are the Effects of Abuse?
There is no single physical or emotional effect of abuse, but it can affect
every aspect of someone's life, especially self-esteem. A lot depends on
the circumstances, how often the abuse occurs and for how long, the age
of the person who was abused, and other factors.
Still, there are ways that abuse can commonly affect teens. Abused teens
can have trouble sleeping, eating, and concentrating. They may perform
poorly at school because they are angry or frightened, or because they
don't care or can't concentrate.
Many abused teens feel distrustful of others. They may feel a lot of anger
toward others and themselves. They may have emotional problems such as
depression. They may engage in self-destructive behavior such as cutting
or abusing drugs or alcohol. They may even attempt suicide.
Teens who are abused often believe that it wouldn't have happened if they
were better people - that there must be something wrong with them. They
may think it was something they did or didn't do that caused the abuse.
They may feel guilty and embarrassed and blame themselves, especially if
the abuse is sexual. They may have trouble getting help because they'd be
telling on someone they love - someone who may be wonderful much of the
time and awful to them only some of the time. They can feel confused and
have mixed emotions. For these reasons, abuse is often not reported.
Abused teens often feel weird or alone. But they're not. It's only human, and
very normal, for teens who have been abused to feel confused and upset
about what happened to them. The most important thing to remember is that
there is no good excuse for abuse. No one EVER deserves to be abused.
What Should Someone Who's Being Abused Do?
They don't have to feel doomed. They don't have to go on being abused. They
can do something about it. Health professionals often say that the first thing
for a person to do if they feel abused in one way or another is to say, "No!"
Sometimes, doing simply this may stop the incident. In other cases, it may
stop the abuse permanently. But it's important to tell the person doing the abuse,
"No! Stop! Don't do this."
Sometimes an abuser might say something like: "This is a secret between you
and me," or "If you ever tell anybody, I'll hurt you or your mom," or "You're
going to get in trouble if you tell. No one will believe you and you'll go to jail
for lying." That's the abuser's way of making a person who is being abused feel
like nothing can be done so that they won't take any action.
People who are being abused need to get help. That usually means telling someone
they trust, like an adult family member or friend, what's going on. Or maybe a
trusted teacher, or an adult who works with youth at school or a place of worship.
Many teachers and counselors, for instance, have training in how to recognize and
There are other options, like looking in the front of the phonebook in the blue pages.
There are usually local child abuse and family violence hotline numbers there that you
can call for help. There's also Child Help USA at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
They are on the Web at www.childhelpusa.org where people can report abuse or
get more information for themselves or others.
No one deserves to be abused. Getting help is the first step in making it stop.
dedicated to improving the health and spirit of children. Today, as part of its continuing
mission, the Foundation supports the operation of a number of renowned children's
health facilities throughout the nation, including the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Nemours Children's Clinics throughout Florida. Visit
The Nemours Foundation to find out more about them and its health facilities for children