If you are being abused or neglected by your family, it can be as confusing as it is scary. Your natural reaction is to trust the people who are supposed to be caring for you, but under no circumstances is abuse acceptable. There are different types of abuse such as physical, verbal, sexual, psychological abuse, or neglect, but the bottom line is that a family member who is causing you physical or emotional harm is abusive.
You deserve to feel safe and loved. Living in an abusive situation can make you question your own sanity and instincts to the point that you may not even realize that you are a victim of abuse. But you can trust your instincts. If you do not feel safe in your home, then you are probably experiencing some form of abuse. Talk to someone you trust about what you are experiencing. If they don’t take your concerns seriously, then you need to find someone who will listen to you.
There can be a series of emotions you feel like fear, guilt, or anger when you reach out for help. You may fear that something bad will happen if you tell someone or that people will blame you for speaking up. But you need to do what is best for you: keep yourself safe and find people who support you. Reach out for help outside of your immediate family like talking to an aunt, uncle, school counselor or teacher. Just be sure that someone you trust outside of your family is aware of your situation.
If you are in danger, call the National Child Abuse hotline at 1(800) 422-4453 to speak with a trained crisis counselor. Other crisis resources include the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (call or text 988 or use the chat box at 988lifeline.org) and the Crisis Text Line (text “MHA” to 741-741). Warmlines are an excellent place for non-crisis support.
If you face verbal or emotional abuse, designate a safe space in your home or at a friend’s house so you can be away from the abuse. Use your words and actions to create healthy boundaries between you and your family members. For example, end a conversation or leave the room to show that you won’t tolerate the abuse. Above all else, keeping yourself safe is so important when coping with an abusive situation.
Even when you have escaped an abusive household, the trauma you experienced can still have a lasting impact. It may feel unfair for you to have to deal with the aftermath of someone else’s wrongdoing, but seeking professional help is the best thing you can do for your personal well-being. A mental health professional can help you establish healthy boundaries and develop trusting relationships with people who will support you.
Whatever you do, resist the urge to harbor and suppress your anger–eventually that anger will rear its ugly head. It’s a hard lesson to learn that family members didn’t always have your best interests at heart. But despite how abuse and neglect are designed to make you feel, you deserve every right to heal and move forward with your life.