Violence and Abuse

If you live in a home where there is a lot of violence, it can be very upsetting and frightening. Violence at home is always wrong and it's never your fault. These tips might help you learn more about how to stay safe, what to do, types of violence and how to get help if you are being hurt.

1. What is abuse?

Abuse may be one or a mixture of physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect:
Emotional / Verbal violence is when you or someone in your family is deprived of love, affection and attention or when an adult continually speaks in a negative or hurtful way and makes them feel worthless. Abusive behaviours include excessive yelling, unreasonable demands, excessive criticism, belittling, teasing, ignoring, humiliating, demeaning punishment, witnessing domestic violence or holding back praise or affection.
Neglect is occurring when a parent or carer fails to provide a child with the basic needs such as love, food, shelter, adequate supervision and medical care.
Physical violence someone hurting you by hitting, slapping, shoving, pushing, biting, kicking or burning you. Someone throwing or breaking things in your home. Seeing your mother or brother or sister hurt or threatened in any of these ways. Someone hurting your pets.
Sexual violence someone hurting you or someone else by touching private parts of your / their body when you / they do not want them to, touching you / them in a sexual way or forcing you to have sex.

Often tricks, bribes or threats and sometimes physical force are used to make a child or others participate in the activity.

2. If you are being abused, you need to know

- you are not to blame for the violence or the threats,
- you do not deserve to be abused,
- you have a right to live without fear,
- you have the right to a safe, healthy relationship and to have your own life,
- you cannot control the abuser's behaviour,
- abuse often gets worse over time.

If you are not ready, or do not want to do anything right now, that is your choice - it is okay.

3. If you think you or anyone else in your family is being abused there are important things you should remember

- someone may try to make you feel ashamed or guilty about what is happening. You are not to blame for something they have done wrong. It is not your fault and it's not a special secret.
- don't believe them if they say something bad will happen to you if you tell; there are people who can help you.
- it is an unsafe secret to keep; it's okay to tell someone and it will help you or your mother to be safe.
- nothing is so awful that it can't be talked about.
- help is available.

4. Violence at home can make you feel bad

The violence at home may be directed at your mother or your siblings and you may see this happening. The violence may also be towards you. It can make you feel really sad and awful. Often children think they have done something to cause the violence in their family. This is not true, but sometimes you might:

- blame yourself for the violence
- feel frightened, sad, ashamed, confused or unhappy
- feel sick, have stomach pains or headaches
- stop eating or not feel like eating
- cry a lot
- sleep badly or have nightmares or wet the bed
- find school difficult
- lose interest in your school work or your friends
- take drugs or alcohol to cope
- feel like running away
- feel angry and want to hurt yourself or somebody else or to smash something
- have trouble talking - for example, you might stutter
- worry about your mother's safety

5. Tell someone about family violence and abuse at home

You can report family violence at home and get help in many ways

- find someone who you trust to tell (perhaps a neighbour, a teacher or a friend's mother).
- tell a trusted adult who can keep you safe and help stop the abuse at home.
- take your time and try to explain how you, your mother or siblings have been hurt. It may be very difficult or scary for you to tell and it may be hard for you to find the right words to explain. Just do the best you can to explain.
- try using the phone, writing things down, drawing a picture or sending an email - lots of people find talking face-to-face very difficult, not just kids.
- if the person hurting you, your mother or siblings is someone in your family, you may feel safer if you tell someone outside your family

6. Staying safe

There are ways that you can stay safe including:

- Talk to people - find someone you can trust and who will listen to you. It might be someone in your family, your friends' parents, a counsellor, your teacher, the police or another trusted adult. They will help protect you.
- Keep on telling different people - if your problem is not being fixed, keep telling people until you feel safe.
- Remember that your body belongs to you - no one should touch any part of your body in a way that makes you feel scared or confused or hurt. This includes your private parts. It is okay to tell someone to stop if they are touching you in a way that hurts or makes you uncomfortable.

7. What if someone I know is being abused?

If a friend tells you that abuse is happening or you suspect they are being abused:

- believe your friend.
- offer support.
- try not to appear shocked.
- encourage them to tell an adult they trust and let them know you will go with them if they want.
- don't keep it to yourself – tell a trusted adult. It is an unsafe secret. It is important that your friend is made safe and that the abuse does not continue to happen.
- help your friend to keep on telling until they are safe.

8. What if I am worried about my own behaviour towards others?

It is not okay to touch, hit,… another person after they have told you they don't like it or asked you to stop. It is not okay to make others do something they do not want to do.

- it is not too late if you realise that you have been acting inappropriately towards others but you may need some help.
- talk to your parents or a trusted adult about what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour.
- if it is difficult for you to talk about it, you may feel more comfortable talking to someone like a Kids Help Line counsellor where your conversation is private, confidential and anonymous.
- if you are feeling angry or aggressive toward others, you may be going through a difficult time and need some extra help to cope with the stresses in your life.
- talk to someone you trust about anything that is worrying or confusing you or you may like to call

9. Things to remember

Family violence is never your fault.
Learn how to stay safe.
Get help by telling someone about the problem.