Most adults treat kids well, but some adults hurt kids rather than help them. Another
word for hurting someone is "abuse."
Child abuse (say: ah-BYOOS) can affect all kinds of kids, no matter where they
live, how much money their families have, how old they are, or who they live with.
A kid can be abused by a parent, a stepparent, another family member, a babysitter,
teacher, coach, or another kid.
Child abuse can happen anywhere — at home, school, childcare, at a friend's
house, or even in a church or other religious building.
Tell Someone What Is Happening Right Away
A kid who is being hurt should tell a trusted adult right away. No matter what
the abuser says, abuse is always wrong — and a kid can ask for and get help
in a few different ways.
Tell a trusted adult. Who? You could tell someone at school, like a school
counselor, school nurse, teacher, or coach. Or tell a friend's mom or dad, big
brother, or big sister. You can do this in person or on the phone, or write a note,
email, or a letter. This can be hard because a kid might have been frightened into
staying quiet. But it's important for kids to keep telling until an adult gets help
and the abuse stops.
If you don't have a trusted adult to turn to, tell someone on the phone or by text
at a hotline service:
From the United States and Canada, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD. Anytime, day or night,
people are there to help kids who are being hurt. Kids also can visit their
website. If you're not in those areas, visit this
website to find a child help line.
If you are in danger, call 911. Be sure to give information like
your first name and address so they can get you help.
If you know someone else who you think might be being abused, you can help by telling
your parent or another adult, like a teacher or a doctor.
How Do You Know Something Is Abuse?
There are a few different kinds of abuse:
Hurting a child's body is called physical abuse. It can happen
from hitting hard with a hand or an object like a belt, especially when the hits leave
bruises or cuts. Shaking, pushing, choking, painful grabbing, and kicking also can
be physical abuse. Hurting kids is never OK. Tell a trusted adult if this is happening
Touching a kid's private body parts is called sexual abuse. Your
private parts are the parts covered by your bathing suit or underwear: breasts, vagina,
and bottom for girls, and penis and bottom for boys. If an adult or another kid touches
a kid's private parts or tells a kid to touch theirs, it is wrong. When this happens,
the person might tell the kid that this touching is a secret and not to tell anyone.
But a kid does not have to keep this secret. Tell a trusted adult, or more than one,
until someone helps you.
Hurting a kid with mean words or lots of anger is verbal or emotional abuse.
This can happen if someone yells all the time, calls the kid mean names, or threatens
to leave the kid or have them adopted. It's normal for parents to get angry with their
kids once in a while. But if there's yelling, punishing, and threatening too much
of the time, kids can start feeling really bad about themselves. It also hurts kids
if they are ignored, or not given love. It's really important to tell a trusted adult
this is happening.
Not giving kids the things they need to live is called neglect.
Neglect (say: neh-GLEKT) happens when kids live in a home where the adults don't give
them basic stuff that all kids need — like food, clean clothes, a way to get
to school every day, 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 they're not getting these important
things. A parent or caregiver might have troubles such as losing a job, family problems,
or problems with alcohol or drugs. But no matter why it happens, a kid needs to tell
someone. Then, the kid can start getting the stuff they need and the parent or caregiver
can get help too.
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 happy and stop abuse from happening.