How To Handle Abuse...

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 "abuse."

You might have a picture in your head about what child abuse is like. When it happens, abuse (say: ah-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 building.

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 neglect.

Physical abuse: 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.

Sexual 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 happening.

Physical neglect: 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 some ideas:

         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 adult.

         Tell someone at school, like a school counselor, school nurse, teacher, or coach.

         Tell a friend's mom or dad.

         Tell someone who answers the phone at a hotline service, such as 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

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 hurt.