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What is abuse

Abuse takes many forms and there isn’t one single way that a person is abused.

Content Warning: this article contains violence and trauma related content that may be triggering or distressing.

Two boys sitting down together, one looks sad, the other is saying it's ok to talk

If you’re being hurt it’s ok to tell somebody

No matter what you might be going through, no matter how alone or worried you feel, it’s really important that you tell somebody what is happening.

  • Abuse is sometimes not talked about out of fear that you’ll get into trouble, that you somehow caused it to happen or that you won’t be believed

  • Abuse is never ok - no matter who is doing it or what they do

  • Abuse is never your fault - no matter where it happened or how it happened

Telling somebody is the first step. If you don’t get help at first then don’t give up - tell someone else you can trust until you get the help you need.

"Abuse is never ok. It’s really important to talk to an adult you trust and get help."

How do you know if you're being abused?

There are lots of different forms of abuse. We’ve listed the four main types of abuse here, with some examples to give you an idea of what it looks like.

Remember, these examples don’t cover everything and sadly there are too many examples to list here. If you’re unsure, please contact Kids Helpline and find out more.

  • Physical abuse is where somebody hurts your body; it may leave marks or bruises eg. hitting, shaking, shoving, kicking, biting or scratching

  • Sexual abuse is where somebody gets you involved in sexual activity eg. touching genitals or breasts, showing you pornography or watching you naked

  • Emotional abuse is hurting you with words or not properly caring for you emotionally eg. name calling, yelling, rejecting, ignoring, criticising or parents fighting in front of you

  • Neglectful abuse is when you aren’t given the things you need to feel safe and secure eg. not treating you when you’re hurt or sick, not having food to eat or a place to live, leaving you alone for long periods of time

What might you be feeling if you’re being abused?

There are lots of different emotions you could feel if you’re being abused by somebody. If you are feeling this way, call Kids Helpline for support today.

Scared or worried
Guilty or ashamed
Like hurting yourself
Isolated from others

Who can you talk to about it?

It’s really important to find someone you trust and feel safe to talk to. If you can’t find anyone in your life who will listen, call Kids Helpline and talk to a counsellor.

Below is a list of some people you could try talking to. Remember, if at first you don’t get help, keep trying until you find somebody who will help you.


Adult relative

Adult friend


Youth worker

Psychologist or Social Worker

School counsellor

Doctor or nurse

Staying safe in an unsafe environment

When you're in an unsafe environment
Minimise contact with unsafe people
Maintain contact with safe people
Create a sense of safety

You are not alone – we are here to help

No matter how alone or worried you feel, Kids Helpline will always listen and support you.

It can be scary telling somebody that you are being abused. Our counsellors are not here to judge you – we listen and we care. Give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email today.

This content was last reviewed 31/03/2020

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