In light of the fact that October is Child Abuse Prevention Month, we thought we would write a blog for kids who might be struggling with abuse in their lives. The following is geared towards younger people so feel free to share or pass along as you see fit!
If you or someone else in your family is abused, it can be really tough and get you down. You’ve probably already worked out a few ways of dealing with it but we thought we would include some of our own;
- Talk to someone about what’s happening. It can help you to feel less alone or to work out what you can do to get safe.
- Write your feelings down in a journal or on a piece of paper that you throw away.
- Make drawings, art or music to express yourself.
- Listen to music; write your own song, rap lyrics or a poem.
- Play a sport, or go for a walk, run, swim or bike ride.
- Go to a place you like.
Things can get better. There are people who can help you to get safe from abuse.
Is it worth telling someone what’s going on, or is it better to keep it to myself?
Talking to someone who cares about you can really help. It’s OK to feel nervous about telling someone about the abuse. For example, you might feel:
- Guilty that you’re telling a family secret
- Scared of not being believed or of being blamed
- Afraid of getting someone in your family in trouble
- Worried about making the situation worse
But there are good things about telling someone, like:
- Relief at finally getting the problem out
- Feeling less alone
- Getting someone else’s advice and ideas
- Getting safer
- The person might help you to make the abuse stop
“Growing up, I had to learn how to handle stress. I think I’m pretty calm in emergencies now. I tend to deal with stress better than other people who didn’t have such difficult childhoods.”
A good friend that you trust can give you support, and maybe help to work out what you can do. But if you think that you need help to protect yourself, you should probably also think about telling an adult or a professional. If you want support, maybe your friend could go with you to tell a counselor or a teacher, or you could contact a hotline to get information about what you might do next.
Sometimes friends or even adults don’t know how to react or help – if a person you tell doesn’t help, don’t let that stop you from telling someone else!
Telling trusted adults…
Adults are often more confident about getting help for you so that the abuse stops. Perhaps they could provide a safe place for you to stay, or they could contact a helping service for you, or they could talk to other family members about what’s happening. There’s lots of ways you could bring the subject up with them. For example, you could say, “there’s something happening at home that’s stressing me out – can I talk to you about it?” You have a right to know what an adult will do if you tell them about the abuse, so you might want to ask what will happen to the information that you give.
Adults you could tell might be your mom or dad (if they’re not the one doing the abusing), friends’ parents, family friends, aunts or uncles, grandparents, older brothers and sisters, or any other adult you trust. If the first adult you tell doesn’t help, try another, or talk to a counselor, help-line, teacher or doctor.
Here are some other ideas for who you could talk to:
- The school principal or vice principal
- Your camp counselor
- Your group leader
- Your big brother or big sister volunteer
- Your priest, rabbi or other religious leader
- Your coach
- Your babysitter
- A neighbour
- Your doctor
- Your foster parents
Kids Help Phone is a help-line where counselors answer calls from kids, 24 hours a day, every day, right across Canada. It’s completely confidential and anonymous. It’s also free and easy to call from anywhere at any time: 1-800-668-6868. If you want to ask a specific question but are too shy or just don’t want to use the phone, you can also send your question by email (Kids Help Phone). Within two days, your answer will be posted back where you can read it.
How can a counselor, teacher or help-line help me?
“I used to drink and smoke dope, just to try to numb it out. But it just led to worse feelings, it didn’t take it away.”
A professional (like a counselor, teacher, student support worker, or doctor) is there to listen to you and help you work out what’s going on and how you can get safe. They shouldn’t judge you. You could talk to a professional over the phone (like a help-line service) or you could see someone in person. You could also talk to a counselor through email (Kids Help Phone does this at kidshelpphone.ca). A doctor can also help if you’ve been injured.
“I didn’t think there was any point in counseling. But I gave it a go because I got talked into it. It doesn’t make everything better straight away, but it does help you to work out your problems, and the counselor won’t judge you.”
What do I say if I tell a teacher or contact a counseling service?
It can be hard to know how to tell someone else about abuse. If you want to tell a teacher or another adult, one way to bring it up might be to say, “Can I talk to you about something that happened to me/something that’s happening at home?” Or, perhaps you can write it down first to practice what you would say. If writing is easier for you, then perhaps you could even give what you wrote to the teacher or another adult or you could email them.
Many people feel a bit nervous calling a help-line. The counselor who answers the phone will understand if you don’t know where to start or what to say. One idea is to start asking about their service first before you talk about yourself (e.g. “I just want to find out what your service does”); another idea is to just say “I want to talk to someone about what’s happening at home” and the counselor will take it from there.
Remember that you have a right to get support and help, and that abuse isn’t your fault.
If you’re worried about whether a professional will keep what you tell them private, you could try:
- Asking them questions first, like “what does your service do?” or “will you keep any info I tell you private? If not, what will you do with any info I tell you?”
- Asking questions over the phone can be easier – you don’t have to give your name. Or you could email Kids Help Phone to talk to them on email (www.kidshelpphone.ca).
- If you tell a professional about the abuse, but you don’t want your situation to be reported to the Children’s Aid Society, tell them why and talk through your fears. They may still say that they have to report it, but at least they’ll know how you feel about it. They should listen to you, tell you what is going to happen, and talk to you about your rights. The main reason a professional would have to tell Children’s Aid would be because they’re worried about your safety – it’s not to get anyone in trouble.
- Remember, you are not to blame for the abuse and you have a right to feel safe. Counselling services and teachers are there to help you.
Dealing with feelings
“The way I coped with the sexual abuse taught me a lot about myself. Learning about myself has made me a lot stronger, and through this very difficult time I’ve discovered the real me. I’ve learned to love myself… the effects of abuse don’t completely go away, but you learn to cope and accept that it has happened. The things that we go through and how we deal with them make us who we are. And I love me.”
- It’s not your fault.
- You’re not ‘weird’ – abuse happens to lots of young people and in lots of families.
- Dealing with this can make you a stronger person.
- You’re important and you deserve to be happy and safe.