1 Tips for Talking to Children About Child Abuse Many adults are uncomfortable about talking with children who have questions about child abuse or who, unfortunately, may be victims themselves. This tip sheet was developed by experts to suggest language appropriate for communicating effectively with children about this sensitive subject. Its aim is to answer children’s questions in a way that they can understand without frightening or confusing them. Don’t assume that a child will behave or react in any particular way. Every situation that involves child abuse is different, and every child responds differently. Simply being an available, responsible adult may provide the support a child needs. Establishing or maintaining a sense of normalcy or routine may help to reassure a child and start the healing process. Your community has resources that can help you, the child, and troubled families through this difficult time. Refer to the resources in this brochure for more information about how to help. Questions That Children Often Ask Neglect is when an adult does not give • “How can I stop it?” “What is child abuse?” the food, care, and place to live that a If you think that you are being abused, Child abuse is when an adult hurts a child needs. If you are neglected, you the bravest and most important thing child, and it is not an accident. Hitting, may not have clean clothes, a bed to constant yelling, or unwanted touching you can do is tell someone you trust. sleep in, or medicine when you are sick. Never keep it a secret, even if the person can all be child abuse. If someone is hurting you tells you that something bad hurting you or making you uncomfort­ “Who abuses kids?” able, ask the person to stop or leave will happen if you tell. Trusting someone Some kids are abused by strangers, after you’ve been hurt can be hard to and tell someone you trust about what but most are abused by someone they do. If you can’t trust anyone at home, happened. know—a parent or stepparent, another talk to someone at school (like a teacher, Physical abuse • is when an adult hurts relative, a babysitter, a teacher, or an counselor, or school nurse) or a friend’s a child by hitting, shaking, choking, older kid. Abuse can happen to all kinds mom or dad. And if that person cannot burning, pinching, beating, or any other of kids, no matter where they live or how help you, keep telling until you get the action that causes pain or injury. If you much money their families have. It can help you need to feel safe. are physically abused, you may notice happen just about anywhere—at home, cuts, bruises, or other marks on your school, day care, or the playground. body. “What will happen to the person who • is when an adult hurts Emotional abuse hurt me if I tell?” “Why would someone abuse a kid?” a child by always yelling at the child, An adult who hurts children needs Most adults care about kids and never threatening to leave, or saying mean special help to learn to stop. While this hurt them. It can be hard to believe that things. If you are emotionally abused, person is getting help, you may see less someone you love or someone who is you may feel like you are all alone and of him or her. This may be tough for nice can hurt you or other kids, but some that no one cares about you. you, especially if that person is a part adults lose their tempers or can’t control • is when an adult or Sexual abuse of your family. Your whole family may the way they act. Drinking alcohol or us­ someone older than a child touches need help, too. ing drugs can also make it hard for some the private parts of a child’s body or people to control how they act. An adult has a child touch the older person’s who hurts children has a problem and private parts. Private parts are the parts You may find that the child asking needs to get help to stop. covered by bathing suits or underwear. questions is a victim. If you are a It is also sexual abuse if an adult shows “mandated reporter”—a person in a a child pictures or movies of people “Is it my fault that this happened to me?” profession such as a social worker, without their clothes on or takes these teacher, or child care provider—you No. No matter what, abuse is never your types of pictures of a child. If someone are required by law to report sus­ fault and you don’t deserve it. It’s normal is sexually abusing you, you may feel pected abuse. Laws about reporting to feel upset, angry, and confused when uncomfortable, scared, or confused. suspected child abuse vary from state someone hurts you. But don’t blame your­ to state. For more information about self or worry that others will be angry laws and reporting procedures in your with you. Even if you think you’ve done state, visit the Child Welfare Informa­ something wrong, that does not make it tion Gateway Web site, hosted by the okay for someone to hurt you. All kids Administration for Children and Fami­ deserve to have adults in their lives who lies, U.S. Department of Health and love and support them as they grow up. Human Services, at www.childwel­

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