Find out more about the signs of abuse, and how we can help to support you

A teenage boy who was sexually abused

Abuse can take many forms, and can cover a wide range of subjects. Abuse is never ok - that's why if you're being abused, you can take action straight away to make it stop. But in order to understand if you’re being abused, it’s important to know what abuse actually is.

What is abuse?

Abuse is when a person is deliberately being hurt by someone else. This hurt can be physical or psychological. It is generally agreed that there are nine different types of abuse someone can experience – these are:

  • Discriminatory abuse – this is where you are being harassed, insulted or treated differently because of your race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability or religion.
  • Physical abuse – this is when you experience assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate physical sanctions.
  • Financial or material abuse – this can include theft, fraud, internet scams or swindling someone out of their property or possessions.
  • Neglect – this is when your emotional, physical or medical care needs are ignored, and you are being denied basic things like warmth, shelter, adequate amounts of food and drink and healthcare.
  • Psychological abuse – this can include threats, cyber bullying, harassment, people ignoring you, blaming you for things or trying to control you.
  • Sexual abuse and exploitation – this is where someone is making you do sexual things that you don’t want to do. This can include indecent exposure, rape, sexual assault, making you pose for or look at sexual images or acts.
  • Organisational abuse – if you’re staying in a care home or hospital you could be being abused if your needs are being neglected or ignored, if you’re receiving poor care, or if you’re suffering because of the policies and practices within an organisation.
  • Domestic abuse – you’re being domestically abused if you’re experiencing controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading or violent behaviour at the hands of a family member, carer, partner or ex-partner.
  • Modern slavery – if you’re experiencing slavery, being trafficked or being forced to work, then you’re being abused, and the people who are making you do these things are abusers who are breaking the law.  

What are the signs of abuse?

From physical indicators such as cuts and bruises, to more subtle things such as emotional difficulties and low self-esteem, the signs of abuse can come in many different forms.

Perhaps the best way to know if you’re being abused is to ask yourself if you feel like you’ve been forced to do something that has violated your rights, or feels like it is wrong. If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then you are almost certainly being abused.

Other signs you’re being abused might include:

  • Experiencing anxiety or sadness
  • Taking drugs or misusing alcohol to cope with your abuse or block it from your thoughts
  • Developing an eating disorder
  • Self-harming
  • Becoming depressed, or experiencing disturbing thoughts and memories, including suicidal thoughts
  • Your physical health deteriorating
  • A sudden change in your personality, including getting involved with new people
  • Taking part in crime and anti-social behaviour.

Support and help

Always remember, if you are being abused then it is never your fault. Your experience of abuse does not define you, or make you a worse person – but it can harm you if you don’t get the help you need.

However, if you are facing abuse then you are not alone – there are lots of places you can go to for support and help:

Remember, any abuse is wrong, and no one has the right to force you to do anything or cause you physical or emotional pain. That’s why if you spot any signs that you are being abused, you can take action straight away to make it stop.

Extra information

Top clips and stories

Listen to the stories of others

It's important to remember that there are other children and young people out there who have been through similar experiences to you. Listen below to the voice of a young person we have worked with who shared their story.