Family Abuse (and the effect on teenagers)

‘I hate weekends. Most of my friends talk about the weekend all week at school, like it’s something to look forward to. Not for me, it isn’t. Weekends are when my Dad comes home drunk. Weekends are when he hits my Mum, and if I try to stop him he starts on me. Then I have to go to school wearing long sleeved tops to hide the bruises.’
Ellie, 16.

‘My mum’s boyfriend hates me. He says it’s all my fault that my Mum doesn’t have enough time or money to have fun with him all the time. I’m stupid, I’m a bad boy, I just get in the way and make a mess in the house. He says my Mum would be much happier if I wasn’t there. Maybe he’s right. Perhaps it is all my fault’
Sam, 13.

‘I’m not allowed to lock my bedroom door at night. That’s because my step dad likes to come and check up on me after Mum has gone to sleep. I lie there, listening, waitng for the sound of his footsteps coming up the stairs, and I feel sick. I don’t like those ‘special cuddles’ he says are a sign that he loves me. It hurts me, and I feel nasty afterwards.’
Katie, 12.

‘I hate going to school. The other kids won’t go near me, ‘cos they say I smell. My school shirt is always dirty, and my shoes are falling apart. My Mum’s too busy with her boyfriend, she’s never home. And she just doesn’t seem to notice when there isn’t enough to eat in the house.’
Peter, 14

Family abuse can take many different forms. It can be physical and violent, like in Ellie’s case. Or verbal and emotional, like in Sam’s situation. Or, it can be sexual, like that suffered by Katie. Then there’s neglect, harder to qualify but often just as damaging.Whatever type of abuse it is, the effects on the family can be devastating. Teenagers might seem grown up in many ways, but they just aren’t equipped to cope with abuse. Although there’s a lot of help and advice that can be given to teenaged victims of family abuse, far too many kids just don’t know how to get in touch with the people and organisations who can help them. Or, they’re too afraid to ask.

Whether you are a teenager or child who is suffering abuse, or a concerned friend or family member who suspects that something might be going on, there are things that you can do. The first step is to know how to recognise abuse: get to know the different types of abuse and  the signs it is taking place.

Types of family abuse

  • Physical abuse: Physical abuse is often the easiest to spot…but not in every case. It can be very violent, like punching, kicking, stabbing or burning, but it can also be poking, pinching or shaking. Physical abuse may, or may not leave marks, bruises and scars. If the marks are on the face, outsiders may be able to guess what is going on and take steps to help the child. But abusers are often very clever at hiding the signs of their abuse, leaving bruises and scars on the parts of the body that are covered by clothes and can’t be easily seen. Abused teens  are often ashamed of their situation too, and hide the marks themselves. Teenagers can feel they are somehow responsible for the abuse and that makes them afraid to seek help.
  • Emotional abuse: It’s hard to see emotional abuse from the outside. It leaves no scars or brusies on the body, but it can cause terrible damage to a child’s mental state. Emotional abuse can cause all kinds of behavioural disorders, and often results in a huge loss of self esteem. Even if you are the teenager or child who is being emotionally abused it can be hard to understand what is happening, and that it is not your fault.
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse is any sexual contact between an adult or much older child and a minor. It can also be sexual abuse if you are an older teenager who has sexual contact forced upon you that you do not want and feel frightened by. If the person doing the abusing is a member of your own family, like your dad or older brother, it’s known as incest. Any type of sexual abuse is wrong and damaging.
  • Neglect: Neglect is the odd one out, of family abuses. This is because it isn’t always intentional, and the abuser is frequently unaware of the consequences of their actions. A parent might neglect a child because of ignorance of  the care a child really needs, or because of financial problems that lead to them simply not having the time or money to provide the care a child requires. Neglect can also be emotional. If a parent or carer doesn’t make time to talk to their child, listen to their problems, emotions and worries, it can also be classed as neglect and can be responsible for psychological and emotional problems for the child. Teenagers are not adults, and still need a lot of guidance from their parents, evn if they don’t think so!

Other forms of abuse that can affect teenagers

Not all abuses that can affect teenagers takes place within the family. You may suffer abuse because of your race, your religion, the way you dress or look. You might be abused by your peers because you are gay, or because someone assumes that you are gay. Abuses of this type often take place at school or in places where you interact with your peers. This is normally known as bullying.

Abuse can also take place in a relationship. This can be extra difficult for a teenager to deal with as it happens within a context of  ‘love’ , and in a relationship that you have chosen for yourself and feel responsible for.

How do you know that you are being abused?

It sounds like a crazy question. Of course you know you are being abused if your dad is beating you black and blue, or creeping into bed to have sex with you every night! But, it really isn’t always that easy. Younger children or teenagers often have a huge trust in the adults in their family and believe them when they say it’s alright to behave in this way. Or, if the adult who is abusing you tells you that you are to blame for the abuse, because you haven’t done well at school, perhaps, or haven’t helped enough around the house you might not recognise that you are being abused. Often, kids who grow up surrounded by violence and abuse can think that this type of life is normal and are unable to recognise it as wrong and abusive. You need to know that no sort of abuse is OK! Even if you are living in a family where one of your parents abuses the other in front of you, you too are a victim of abuse. You deserve help and help is available.

Why abuse happens

If you are caught up in an abusive situation, you rpobably ask yourself ‘Why?’

It’s a very good question.  The first thing to understand, absolutely and completely, is that is is not your fault. It doesn’t matter if someone tells you that you are to blame, you’re NOT. Many abusers try to shift the blame for thir behaviour onto the victim, but this is their problem and part of their abuse. No one, least of all a child or young person, deserves to be abused no matter what they have done, not done or are accused of doing.

There are as many reasons why a person becomes abusive as there are different types of abuse…and different types of people. Not all abusers are really bad people…but all are doing a bad thing.
Sometimes, a person abuses others because they themselves have grown up in an abusive family and been a victim of abuse. They grow up thinking that abuse is normal, and transfer this behaviour to their adult lives and family relationships if the problem hasn’t been properly dealt with at the time. Others may not be able to draw the line between discipline and abuse. Some can’t deal with the stress that they find themselves under, perhaps due to financial problems or family illness. Mental illness, such as depression can also induce abusive behaviour, as can alcoholism and drug use.

Abusers like these can be helped if they ask for counselling and therapy…but they need to fully commit to solving the problem and might need help for a long time. If you are being abused by a family member, you might think that reporting the abuse and asking for help is a betrayal, but actually it is the only way to help not just yourself, but also your abuser.

Distinguishing between abuse and normal family life

As we’ve said, it can be difficult for a young person to actually make the distinction between abuse and normal family life. Every family has arguments and fall outs from time to time. It’s quite normal to get it wrong, sometimes, while you’re growing up, and if you behave badly, it’s OK for your Mum or Dad to discipline you by removing priviliges for a period of time, or to insist that you send more time on your homework and less time with your friends for a while. Parents can get stressed too, because life isn’t easy for grown ups any more than it is for teenagers. Sometimes they can be cross and a little unreasonable, and you feel that they just aren’t being fair. As long as they aren’t humiliating you by calling you names or hitting, threatening or withdrawing necessities from you, it’s probably normal. A healthy family will overcome these problems quite quickly, by talking the problems through and finding reasonable, fair solutions. If someone outside the family is abusing you, maybe a bully at school or an adult like a teacher or even a priest, you should feel able to talk to your parents about it and ask for their advice.

How abuse can affect you

Of course, physical abuse affects you in obvious ways. You may be sore, injured or visibly scarred by violent attacks. But the effects of abuse are not always as obvious. The emotional and psychological effects of abuse can be even more devastating than the physical. Children or teens who have been sexually abused may develop unhealthy attitudes towards sex and be unable to form normal, loving relationships. They may become afraid to express love physically, or may feel that they need to have sex with every one they form any relationship with, inappropriately.

Many teenagers who are abused become withdrawn from their family and friends. It can become harder to concentrate on school work, and their grades can suffer.  They might be frightened of going to school, especially if they are marked by abuse or are being bullied at school. They stop attending social events or sports clubs and hide away from the world. This just increases a sense of isolation and makes it even harder for them to find help or for others to notice and offer assistance. Bad behaviour at school or in the home can also be a direct consequence of abuse, as the young person loses their ability to distinguish between right and wrong or seeks attention in the only way they can. Some teens who are suffering abuse feel so desperate that they even consider killing themselves. Young victims of abuse often feel that they are worthless and lose hope for the future. If you feel like this, you can call helplines where someone will advise you and reassure you that there is a way out and that there are people who care. Contact details for help if you are suffering the effects of abuse are given at the end of this article.

What to do if you are being abused

If you are being abused, or if someone you know is being abused, there is always something that you can do, even if you don’t think so. Whatever your abuser tells you, you have nothing to be ashamed of, and you do not have to keep the abuse a secret. So, what should you do?
The easiest answer is to talk to someone you trust who is in a position to advise you. This could be a member of your family, a teacher at school, a priest from your church or perhaps the parents of a good friend. Often, if the abuse is happening outside the home, telling your Mum or Dad is good. But, if the abuse is happening within the home your Mum or Dad might find it difficlt to accept and it is better to seek advice from someone not so close to the problem. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you or care about you, it’s just that abuse is difficult for adults to handle too.

If there isn’t anyone you know personally who can help, or if you feel that you or anyone else is in danger, there are emergency helpines and advice lines that you can call. There are even refuges…places of safety…where you can go if you need to escape. Leaving home is a tough thing to do, but it may be just what you need to help start the process of solving the problems.

The organisations to call vary from country to country, so it all depends where you live.

  •  If you are in the US, you can contact Childhelp USA on 800-422-4453. Other sources of help  include Prevent Child Abuse America (http://www.preventchildabuse.org) or call 312-663-3520. Or, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network can be found on http://www.rainn.org and 800-656 HOPE. Or, there’s the National Domestic Violence/Abuse hotline ( http://www.ndvh.org and 800-799-SAFE. If your problems are connected to a dating relationship outside the home, you can get help and advice from Love is Respect. Find them on the website ( http://www.loveisrespect.org ).
  • If you live in the UK, you can get in touch with Childline.  This is an NSPCC charity dedicated to stopping and preventing child abuse of any sort. You can contact them in complete confidentiality.http://www.childline.org.uk/Pages/Home.aspx  or call 0800 1111.
  • If you are in Canada, you can contact the Child Abuse Hotline on 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
  • Worldwide: The Samaritans or Befrienders networks will also offer support and advice for young people who are trapped in abusive situations or who may be feeling depressed or suicidal.http://www.befrienders.org/

If you are worried that your abuser may find out that you are trying to ask for help or report a problem, there are things that you can do to protect yourself. Make a call from a trusted friend’s house if possible, rather than from your own home. You can do the same with the internet…it’s better not to use a home computer in case anyone sees what sites you have visited. If you don’t have a friend whose phone or computer you can use, you can go to an internet cafe or use a public telephone. Try to avoid using your mobile phone if possible for calls like these, as it’s very easy for calls or texts to be traced.

Whatever way you seek help, the organisation will protect your privacy and will not force you to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.They are there to help you.

  • michala

    my mom haves and new bf they been togather for bout 3 years he was soo soo nice at 1st i thought he was the one for my mom but maybe not he tells her what to do i have nothing in my room but a matters whats all i have i have to from the time i get home 4:00 to 12:30 at night i got to stand i cnt sit down at all if i do i get yelled at and he grabs my arm every time he dose he puts a make on me i have no blankets or pellows to sleep with! i frezz at night time …he is always coming in my room watching me sleep …he tuke them also so i have nothing but my bed and mi cat letter and then he keeps pooring it on my bed every night so i got to claen it up every day at less 3/4 times …….this is my step dad that do this ….iv told police they dont care but what ever right when i was younger an]bout 7 i was raped foe 3 years non stop then i had to live with all of my moms bfs they would hit me rape me but i never told my mom and when i did she cared for a lil bit like 2/3 months now shes like i dont care or she would see the signs of this man hurting her own child but no she say i put him be4 anyone …im her own child…..now she wunder why i like gangs and drugs and shit but who care i dont ….they dont care foe me i dnt care foe them!!!!!im (14 about to be 15 )and i dont know what to do any more….

    • Tippi

      Michala don’t give up, and I care. Stop punishing yourself for what is happening to you. It is not your fault. You are stronger then most people, because you have survived more then most people have experienced in their entire life. I have been where you are and there is hope. You need to find someone who you can trust and tell them what is going on. Call the number in this article, ask for help. You are worth it. You are not a victim, you are strong, you are powerful, you are a survivor.

  • lost girl

    my mom hates me. she doesn’t even love me or care for me she hurts me..bad emotionally and physically. I almost swallowed a whole bottle of Tylenol today I didn’t. I jus wanted to give up on life u know. I wanna die. if I did die know one would care.

    • Tippi

      I would care. Nothing is ever so far gone that you cannot get help and get out. But you have to tell someone who can help you. You are worth more then that, you have so much to give inside of you. It is NOT your fault. You are strong, you are a survivor. Don’t let them make you a victim. Call the number is in this article.

    • Alivia Algren

      I understand how you feel. Sometimes it feels like it’s not worth it. Usually, I am the one to make others feel better but I won’t let them know my problems. Sometimes you feel embarrassed by it. Never give up hope. It may be all you have, so don’t give it up. Email me if you’d like [email protected]

  • atarauliya

    i got beaten by my dad from childhood. no one loves me. but when i was 16 i was brutally beaten and it creates a wall between us. he always used to abusive me and my mum hates me and put all the blame on me. i always found myself guilty. no one talks with me in my home and stop my sis to talk with me. i run away from home two times. this whole thing last with me 2 years and i almost every night think about it and cried. i was the topper in my class but after that i am not more than a average student i can’t concentrate on any thing, they always check my stuff and phone and treat me most of the time like a victim….taking my phone and locking it up for weeks…..they never appreciate me…..i always think of suicide got so much frustrated, punching walls, attempt suicide 2 times and once saved by my friends…..i want to stop think all that shits but i can’t…..i experience all this things daily mentally…..i have poor anger control….suffering from headaches all the time….i panically attack sometimes and then thinking why i did that…… most of the time i feel uncomfortable and fearful…. i feel i am responsible for all this thing and i hate myself….i live alone and avoid communication with outsiders coz i feel it difficult to communicate with others……… i am fully comfused what to do and to get rid of all this shits…

    • Khira

      Hi,i am 16,My life is similar as your life,but u hv to know never try to suicide again cause its against God laws,and you are to precious to be dead so young,you hv to pray everyday, cause I v been beaten for my all life but I am still surviving, but if u can’t handle this call the police but know that would not get better if he the one who s working,God loves u don’t need to be love by Others creature

    • A Girl With A New Voice

      I’m 18 years old now…. I have been through many abuses all the way from physical to sexual by 4 different people in my life. For three years i was sexually abused by a man who lived in our house and the room right next to mine. My biological father left bruises as he hit me as he was on drugs. Now for the past two years my mother has become more of the abuser. She became an alcoholic and became no longer mental but physical. She pinned me up against a door as she began to choke me. My step dad than told me to suck it up the next day. I have even tried suicide twice and my boyfriend saved me both times. Coming through a long life of abuse and several abusers just know that once you are 18 you can save yourself. I left home still in high school. Now the mental and emotional abuse is greater than physical because of the anger my “parents” have to me leaving. My younger sister who i see at school won’t even talk to me and blames me. Even have to get a restraining order against them. I suffer from great depression and anxiety and i always thought it was my fault too since this keeps happening with me. Now i fear and always look behind my shoulder because of it. It sounds terrible but when i was 17 i got social services involved and police and it made it worse. You do have a voice though. Make sure you have a plan before. Being safe is better than impulsive. Please know that no matter what it will get better once you see a bright side or a hand helping you cross paths between this life and a better one. I turned to working out my anger with lifting ( i do to have poor anger control) and looking towards god. (I never ever would have before i moved out) Only because the faith i now have and the hunger i have to succeed is greater. Be that one child who turns there life around and be able to look their abuser(s) in the face and say i’m proud of myself and look where i have gotten without you.

  • Lilly

    I’m not physically abused but I am verbally abused, I have been since I was 8yrs old I am now 17 , I can’t take it anymore I cry on a daily basis and the thought of taking my life has ran across my mind more then once . I’m treated like I’m my moms enemy, I try to do everything she asks but she still calls me names puts me down and makes me feel like I’m never good enough she’s laid her hands on me a few times before one time she held me up against a wall by my throat .
    She won’t let me leave and I have a place to say and she always threatens to call the cops when I try to leave I don’t know if they would understand and let me stay where I’m safe or make me go back to being tourchered I just need to know some things I can’t afford to be emancipated so that’s out of the question .

  • marge

    i dont know what to do. Im only fourteen and im scared and i dont want to live with my parents anymore im sick of the emotional abuse ive been taking for as long as i can remember. Its been physical too, but never anything serious. Im sick of the hurtful things that are constantly said to me, and feeling like a disappointment. I just dont know what to do because my family from an outside eye looks perfect. My parents have good jobs, they feed me, and send me to school. Someone help.

    • atarauliya

      now a days my condition is very similar to you.i know sometime its become very depressing when you take it too long.all i can suggest u from my experience is not to take any stand for yourself coz you are at your early teen age and things can get worst by taking any action.My family is very similar to you.We have respect in our society. and when any one says anything to you, no matter how sharp pointed is that,you have to just SMILE coz smiling is the best reaction in all situation.i know its sounds difficult or maybe useless but trust its very effective. smile and silence coz silence is the best answer of all question.just try it.u may fail sometimes but i swear it will work. and you know not responding is also a response…..

  • Esteban Rivero

    I am sure that my family hates me. Every night my dad makes me leave the basement so that he could have his free time. He locks the basement door when he tells me not to in the day… then I go upstairs to watch tv with my mom and he does the thing that he does everyday. He peeks in and leaves for a few seconds, (note this happens at 3 A.M) then comes back and starts yelling at my mom and I. It’s like my dad is trying to start an argument every night. He’s an alcoholic and He’s told me that he will stop, he promised, but I haven’t seen any progress in that. I’m sure that he’s drunk everyday. I go downstairs and find like 20 beer bottles overtime I go there. But the part that pisses me off is that they are hidden. One time I went downstairs and I found him drinking a beer. He tells me that the beer bottle is from yesterday when I clearly saw him drinking it. He makes any excuse to not tell me the truth. I am the oldest brother in the family. But no excuse for what my little brother does. He steals, lies, and manipulates my parents into thinking it’s all my fault. Heres a scenario, My brother is clearly lying to my parents and keeps on going about it. He gets mad when I’m telling him that he’s a liar and he can’t have things his way. He goes for a punch and hits me, and continues with the intension of hurting me more, throwing kicks and other stuff. then I grab him and throw him to the ground Because I don’t feel good about punching my brother. (I’ve never punched my brother ever). Then he starts crying and my parents get me in trouble and beat me. And my brothers excuse is that he’s 18 months younger than Me. My brother also gives me those cynical smiles that I hate saying ‘Watcha gonna do’ and thats the only time I start the fight. And then he acts like what did he do to deserve this? I’ve been thinking about not playing sports again with my brother because overtime I do, he starts a fight and It’s somehow my fault. My Mom asks me to defend her when my stupid dad yells and insults my mom. But when he starts yelling at me, she starts supporting him. I know she’s scared of him yelling at him again. but I am too when I am supporting her. My parents also never let me do anything. I was suppose to go to this national team camp for water polo this week in Pepperdine. But my dad likes manipulating me. One hour he says yes. then He another hour he says “Pepperdine.” with a sarcastic tone and a laugh saying I don’t deserve it. And I’m not going anymore because I’ve started not to listen to him. Because If I do, I better have my brain ready for an argument. Ive been living like this for 10 years. It all started when I was 5. I don’t know If I’m at the point where I should move to foster care for the remainder of my 2 1/2 years of high school? Or I should just deal with it until I go to college and never talk to them again until my feeling are restored. Thats My problem, I’m a very noble kid. Every night I’m ready to punch my father to stay away from my mom. I’m always ready. The other night he was sleeping in my bed and I wanted to sleep there. But my dad said “fuck you! you jerk!” and punched me. I was about to explode. But I think It would have been best to leave it. And as always no matter what anyone does, when my brother knows its some else fault, he always blames it on me and says “Esteban Shut up go away!” when he knows my dad is doing something wrong. Do I call services? or should I deal with it? Thanks for your guys time, I really needed to get this off my chest.

  • sara_houra

    I feel like the only power I have is my voice so I scream. Just because of that Im the bad person in the family. I don’t know what to do, im 16 now and have been in an abusive relationship with the person who is called my “father” but he doesn’t deserves that title. That has to be earned and he lost it a long time ago. I have poor anger control now and I don’t know how to learn to control my anger better. when my siblings are rude or mean I want to hit them too. I don’t but I want to. I hate that and I don’t want to but im sensing a pattern. I love them and most of the time we have a solid relationship but even the once in a while drives me crazy because I am so scared. what if I do this with my own children, what if I become exactly like “him”? I cant stand it. I have an amazing mother, she loves me and I love her more. She knows that he does this so she fights against him too but we are no match. I remember being blamed that he lost his job. hes a very educated man in terms of studies but has no understanding of life or family. I cant stand him anymore, I want him gone. I remember a short period of time where I lived alone with my “father” and he physically hurt me almost every night. Im not a quite girl, and I don’t let someone verbally abuse me easily but he gets mad that I fight back so he becomes physical and then I am out matched. so instead I scream and then my uncle says I need to be quiet. I am being physically abused and I cant scream. I just need to shut up and go die. my “father” is dealing with depression but I say its all lies. this is a game hes playing to fool others and it works. My relatives tell me that hes sick and its not his fault. Then he has been sick for 10 YEARS. Bullshit. What about me, im becoming sick too. I don’t want to. I want to be calm and in peace but he lives with me and its not like I don’t love the rest of my family. Its just him. when I scream I feel like im getting my anger out without it then I will explode but no one understands. he hits and its fine cause he is “sick” but I scream and im a terrible person? why, maybe I am!

  • Xavier

    Through out my life I have been abused in all the ways mentioned, but by different peole. But to the point of here and now, My mom emotionally abuses me. She picks on me because of me being transgender, evertime she talks about me she makes sure to emphisize the “She” and she told me that I was born a girl. Also she’ll sit there and watch everything I do so that she can find something to blame me for.She makes me feel hated and unloved. Because of everything I have been through I have tried comminting suicide and everytime she finds out she makes fun of me and tells me i’m just trying to get attention, or I’m being dramatic. I can’t stay at my house anymore I ran away and now my mom doesn’t even want me. I have no where to go and I am scared. I don’t know what to do or what I should do.I mean, I’m only 15, what can I do?

  • Alivia Algren

    I’m 14 years old and my dad abuses me. He used to abuse my sister but she learned to stop bring social around the house. A month ago she tried to commit suicide but she failed and my dad yelled at her and beat her. Today, my dad choked me and yelled at me because my dad’s on and off girlfriend ate his chocolate bar and blamed it on me while I was asleep. This isn’t the first time my dad has done this. I tried running away or stay at a friend’s house but I always have to come back. He threatened that he would kill me many times and also that he will no longer buy grocery so that I will die of starvation. My sister is staying at her friend’s house full time. But since I’m too young I’m not allowed to stay at my friend’s house for too long. I’m scared and don’t know what to do. Please help me 😭