Experiencing child abuse is hard.

You might stress from one day to the next, never knowing what to expect. You might also struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, anger, fear, and confusion. You might feel trapped or like there’s nowhere to turn and no one you can trust. Still, if there’s one thing that is important for you to understand right now, it’s that you don’t have to deal with this abuse alone.

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How It Feels & Facts About Child Abuse

If things have been rough at home for a long time, you may have become used to it. The abuse might feel almost normal—you accept it as just another part of your day. This can be a way of coping. If you accept the abuse as normal, it feels less upsetting. But deep down, you know that what’s happening isn’t right.

Here are some other feelings that are common for people living with family abuse:

  •  Betrayal
  •  Guilt
  •  Hopelessness
  •  Rejection
  •  Fear
  •  Worthlessness
  •  Shame
  •  Confusion
  •  Helplessness
  •  Anger
  •  Sadness

Dealing with Child Abuse

Not getting the love or care you deserve can change the way you think. Some people try to cope by cutting themselves or by using drugs and alcohol. Not only do these behaviours not stop the abuse, but they also don’t help you deal with it. The thing with self-destructive coping is that, in the long-run, it just makes you feel worse. It makes you feel like you deserve to feel bad. And just in case no one has told you this: You do not deserve to feel bad.

It’s not your fault

It seems like an obvious or simple statement, but it’s really important that you understand this: IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. Write that down and put it someplace where you’ll see it every day. You cannot blame yourself for what’s going on at home. You have done nothing to make any of this happen. Even if the abuse is a “punishment” for something you’ve done “wrong,” you do not deserve it. Nothing that you can do is punishable by abuse.

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Talk to Someone

You can’t control what happens in your family, but you can choose how to respond to it. Now here’s the hard part: The best way to take control is to talk to someone about it. That probably seems impossible, right? That’s the reason why many teens take years to tell someone about what’s happening at home. Some never do.

Why should I tell?

The reason it’s important to tell someone is that this isn’t the kind of thing that you can take on by yourself. You need help to make it better.

Who do I tell?

There are a few different people you can talk to about what’s going on at home. Is there an adult you trust who doesn’t live at home with you? It could be a teacher, friend’s parent, guidance counsellor, coach, relative, or someone else you trust. You can also call Kids Help Phone to talk to a counsellor anonymously.

What to expect

The person you tell should take you seriously and want to help you right away. If the person you talk to doesn’t want to get involved, you need to tell someone else. Don’t wait for things to get better on their own.

Not ready yet?

Teens who live with abuse often feel conflicted, and confused. They know that things aren’t right, but just don’t feel ready to tell someone what’s happening. Sometimes, teens don’t want to talk about abuse because they feel guilty, but other times, they might be worried about practical things, like being separated from their siblings, or – in certain cases – being deported.

It’s normal to want to think about what might happen before you ask for help. It’s also pretty common to feel like you’re betraying your parents by asking for help, even though you’re not. It takes a lot of courage to talk about child abuse, so take the time you need.

Until you are ready to talk, here are some things you can do to stay safe and prepare yourself for that next step:

  • Create a safety plan
  • Get involved with hobbies or social activities
  • Identify and build your social support network
  • Spend time with people you know you’re safe with