Abuse can take many forms. It is anything that another person does that is meant to cause harm. It can be very difficult to talk about abuse and sometimes it can be hard to know whether something is abuse or not. The important thing to remember is that there are people who can help.

The main types of abuse you might encounter are:

Physical abuse – This is when someone is physically hurting you. It can include slapping, hitting, punching, kicking, shaking, suffocating or burning you. Someone forcing you to eat or swallow something you don’t want to is also physical abuse. You can be left with bruises, cuts and broken bones.

Physical abuse can also have emotional effects. It can make you feel anxious, frightened, depressed, angry, lonely and isolated. You might find it hard to sleep or not want to eat properly. This isn’t normal and you should get help.

Emotional abuse  – This is when someone repeatedly makes you feel bad about yourself. They might shout at you, tell you you’re no good, or ignore you. They could put you down all the time, call you names, treat you differently to your brothers and sisters or put pressure on you to do things you’re not ready for. They might also stop you from having friends.

Emotional abuse will damage your confidence and leave you with low self-worth. If you’re treated like this all the time it can start to seem normal. But it isn’t and you should get help.

Sexual abuse – This is when someone forces or tricks you into sexual activity with someone else. Sexual abuse can happen to boys and girls. You can be abused by someone of the same sex. It can involve being touched in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, or someone exposing themselves to you. You might be forced to have sex (rape), or to do something sexual. It can happen online as well as offline.

Sexual abuse can lead to a number of issues. It can make you think badly of yourself and make you scared of physical contact with other people. You might become depressed or self-harm. You could also develop an eating disorder, take drugs or drink alcohol. Talking about sexual abuse can seem scary, but there are people here to help.

Neglect – This is when an adult who is supposed to take care of you doesn’t. You should be healthy, clean and well looked after. You should have everything you need. You need food, drink, clean clothes and protection from danger. If you aren’t getting these things, you could be neglected. You should also have love and support from your parents or carers.

Neglect can make you feel invisible. You might think that nobody cares about you. It can make you feel isolated, because you feel different to other young people. Talk to someone if you feel like you are being neglected at home and get help.

Domestic abuse – This is when one adult in your family threatens or is violent towards another adult in your family. It can also be called domestic violence. It can be emotional abuse, as well as physical abuse. Even if it isn’t directed at you, it can still affect you.  

If you see the abuse happening to someone you love it can be very upsetting and scary. If you’re worried about what you’ve seen, you need to talk to someone. There are people who can support you, as well as the rest of your family. 

Who can I talk to about abuse?

It can be very difficult to talk about abuse. It’s scary and you may think that no one can help you. But there are people who can help you if you speak out. The most important thing is to talk to someone you trust. That might be a friend, a member of your family, a teacher, a school nurse or even a friend’s parent. You could also go to your doctor.

If you don’t feel like you can talk to someone you know, try calling Childline. There is always someone there and they will always listen. They can give you advice about who else you can talk to.

I’m scared to talk about my abuse. What can I do?

It’s completely normal to feel nervous and worried about starting a conversation about abuse. Remember that if you’re talking to someone you trust they will want to help you. It’s good to prepare yourself before you talk to someone as this can help you feel more confident.

Plan what you want to say. Try to think of some specific examples you can give them to help them understand. You don’t have to say everything in one go. If you’re only ready to talk a little, that’s ok. Take your time. Starting to talk about abuse is the hardest part. Choose a time when you feel safe and when the adult you’re talking to will have time to listen.  

Always remember that you won’t get into trouble for talking about what’s happening to you. Your abuser might have told you that bad things will happen if you speak out, but this isn’t true.

What will happen next?

The next steps will depend on what’s happened to you and what your circumstances are. Different professionals (like doctors and teachers) have different rules about keeping something they’ve been told private or confidential. It also depends on what you tell them. If they’re worried about your safety, some adults have to tell someone else. This is so they can help you in the best way.

If you’re worried about confidentiality, you can ask them about it before you tell them anything. Most professionals have a responsibility to tell you their policy.

There may be an investigation into what’s happened to you. That investigation may also look at whether it’s happened to anyone else. If the abuse is happening within your family, social services might get involved to make sure you’re safe.

You might also be offered other support depending on how you’ve been affected by the abuse. You could see a counsellor to talk about your feelings. They can help you understand what’s happened and deal with the abuse. If the abuse has made you depressed, your doctor could recommend therapy or prescribe you antidepressants. Don’t worry though because there will be people to support you through every stage.

What should I do if I think my friend is being abused?

If you have a friend who has started behaving differently and you are worried about them, you should talk to an adult. You should also make sure your friend knows that you’re there for them.

It can be very difficult for someone to talk about abuse. If you think your friend wants to tell you something the best thing you can do is listen. Encourage them to talk to an adult you both trust after they’ve spoken to you. You could offer to go with them to give them support.

Think about how to keep them safe. You could arrange a code that your friend can text or call you with if they’re scared or in trouble. You should also agree on what your next step is, such as calling the police on 999 or speaking to a family member. 

Are there other kinds of abuse?

Abuse can take many forms. The ones listed above are the most common, but forced marriages and female genital mutilation (also called FGM, cutting, sunna and female circumcision) are also types of abuse. Forced marriage can happen to boys as well as girls.

Forced marriage and FGM are illegal in the UK. If you are worried that you might be forced into a marriage, or that your family are going to make you have FGM, you need to talk to someone. You don’t need to worry alone and you have a right to be protected.

Even if your family has reasons why you should have FGM or go into an arranged marriage, you need to remember that no one can force you to do anything. You might love your parents and worry about what will happen if you talk to someone, but you shouldn’t feel like this or be forced into anything.

Did you know?

-Over 57,000 children in the UK have been identified as needing protection from abuse

-For every child identified as needing protection, the NSPCC estimates there are 8 more suffering abuse

-A child contacts Childline every 25 seconds



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