Abuse is when someone hurts or causes emotional stress to someone else. Abuse can
affect anyone. It can happen in any kind of relationship, like a friendship, romantic
relationship, or among
family members. Abuse can happen in many ways. Hate crimes directed at people because
of their race, religion, abilities, gender, or sexual orientation are also abuse.
What Are the Types of Abuse?
Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse are some of the most known types of abuse:
Physical abuse is when someone hurts another person's body. It
includes hitting, shaking, burning, pinching, biting, choking, throwing, beating,
and other actions that cause physical injury, leave marks, or cause pain.
Sexual abuse includes any type of sexual contact between an adult
and anyone younger than 18, or between a significantly older child and a younger child.
It's also sexual abuse at any age if one person overpowers
Emotional abuse happens when yelling and anger go too far or
when important adults constantly criticize, threaten, or talk down to kids or teens
until their self-esteem is
damaged and they feel really bad about themselves. Emotional abuse can hurt and cause
damage just as physical and sexual abuse do.
Another form of abuse is online
abuse, which is emotional or sexual abuse that happens in the virtual
Online emotional abuse is any type of online message sent to
bully or hurt another person (like an intimidating or threatening message).
Online sexual abuse is when someone is asked to share inappropriate
pictures of themselves, take part in sexual activities via webcam or smartphone, and/or
have sexual conversations by text or online chat. Sometimes, the people who do this
give or promise to give things to get someone to go along with these activities. The
lasting effects of this abuse include images and videos that can be shared long after
the abuse stops.
Other types of abuse include:
Neglect is when a child or teen doesn't have enough food, housing,
clothes, medical care, access to school, or supervision. Emotional neglect happens
when a parent doesn't provide enough emotional support or rarely pays attention to
their child. This isn't when parents don't give their kids something they want, like
a new computer or a smartphone. It refers to more basic needs, like food, shelter,
Domestic violence is when two adults physically abuse each other
or when one adult hurts another. Domestic violence can be hard for a child or teen
to watch and can get a young person hurt, especially if adults throw or damage items
Bullying someone through scaring, threats, or teasing can be
just as abusive as beating someone up. People who bully
others may have been abused themselves.
Recognizing abuse can be hard for someone who has lived with it for many years,
or is being abused by someone they know or trust. Teens might mistakenly think that
it's their fault for not doing what their parents tell them, breaking rules, or not
living up to someone's expectations.
Growing up in a family where there is violence or abuse can make someone think
that is the right way or the only way for family members to treat each other. Somebody
who has only known an abusive relationship might think that hitting, beating, pushing,
shoving, or angry name-calling are normal ways to treat someone when you're mad.
Seeing parents treat each other in abusive ways might lead their kids to think
that's OK in relationships. But abuse is not a typical or healthy way to treat
people. If you're not sure you are being abused, or if you suspect a friend
is, it's always OK to ask a trusted adult or friend.
What Are the Effects of Abuse?
Yelling and anger can happen in lots of parent–teen relationships and in
friendships. But if punishments, arguments,
or yelling go too far or last too long it can lead to stress and other serious problems.
Abuse may affect a teen's self-esteem, mood, focus, quality of sleep, or interest
in activities they once enjoyed. The effects of abuse can affect every aspect of a
person's life and the effects often last after the abuse stops. The impact of abuse
can be different for everyone because a person's response to abuse is based on many
things, like their age at the time of the abuse or how much support they have in their
life. So it's important to get help as soon as possible.
What Can Stop Someone From Reporting Abuse?
Teens who have been abused often feel afraid, numb, or confused about what happened
to them. They may feel guilty, ashamed, and embarrassed and blame themselves. But
abuse is never the fault of the person who is being abused, no matter how
much the abuser tries to blame others.
People who are abused might have trouble getting help because it means reporting
someone they love — someone who may be wonderful much of the time and awful
to them only some of the time. It's normal to be worried or afraid of what could happen
by reporting abuse, either because they fear what the abuser may do or how the family
will feel if the abuser has to leave the home.
For reasons like these, it can be hard to reach out for help, even though it's
important to do so.
How Can Someone Who's Being Abused Get Help?
People who are being abused need to get help. Keeping the abuse
a secret doesn't protect anyone from being abused — it only makes it more likely
that the abuse will continue and possibly affect more people.
If you need help right away and are in danger, call 911. Tell
them your name and where you are so they can get you help.
If you or someone you know is being abused, talk to an adult you or your friend
can trust — a family member, a trusted teacher, a doctor, or a school or religious
youth counselor. Many teachers and counselors
have training in how to recognize and report abuse. If the first adult you tell does
not seem to listen, keep telling adults until someone responds.
Getting help and support is an important first step. Working with a therapist
can help teens sort through the complicated feelings and reactions that being abused
creates. The process can help a teen rebuild feelings of safety and confidence.
Most teens who get the help they need report feeling much better about themselves.
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 you can do. It can feel really good
to take steps to stay safe and happy and stop abuse from happening.
If you can't tell a trusted adult, contact a crisis support group. If you live
in the United States:
Sometimes people who are being abused by someone at home need to find a safe place
to live for a while. It is never easy to have to leave home. But it's important to
be protected from more abuse. If you call a helpline, they can also help you find
a safe place to stay, if needed.
Reviewed by: Stephanie A. Deutsch, MD and Allison T. Dovi, PhD