My mum and dad split up when I was 8 years old. They were always screaming and shouting at each other. When my dad left home, my mum started laying on the sofa all day long, crying and drinking. There have been days when she’d have drunk so much that she would just fall asleep and wouldn’t wake up until the next day.

My mother wanted to be alone all the time. Whenever we’d go next to her she’d shout and tell us to leave her alone. She used to tell me how stupid I was, how I was worthless just like my dad, how she wishes my brother and I were never born, that we were mistakes, and that we ruined her life. Whenever we would make even just a little bit of noise she would start screaming at us like a crazy person and she would hit us. She’d often threaten that she would call the police who would take us away forever.

I was afraid all the time, but I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on at home. My brother and I swore to keep everything that was happening at home a secret. If anyone asked, we would tell them that our mother was sick.

One day, during one of my mother’s episodes, she threw one of her bottles and hit my brother in the head. He bled so much that I thought he was going to die. I took him to a doctor not far from my home. In all my worry I started to cry and told the doctor everything. He told me that he was going to take care of everything and assured me that it would all be okay in the end.

Now we’re living with my grandmother while my mother is being treated for alcoholism and depression. My brother and I are getting help from our school counsellor who listens to us whenever we need to talk. We are much happier now. We feel safer knowing that there are people who care for us and that our mother is getting the help that she needs and will be better soon. Now I know that I’m not stupid and worthless. My mother only said that to me because she was ill. I’m so grateful that I found the courage to tell someone about what was happening to us. To all those who are going through a similar situation, speak up. Get help. I wish I had done so earlier.

What is abuse?

Put simply, abuse is when one person causes serious harm to another person. We all go through difficult times and some conflict is a natural part of life. It hurts when a friend is angry at us and it is stressful and frustrating to be punished or shouted at by our parents, but when this behaviour goes too far and lasts too long it might be abusive.  An abuser can be someone within your family, a friend, classmate, colleague, partner, or even a stranger. It can happen in many ways:

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is when adults hurt a child or a young person, or do not prevent them from being physically abused by others. This may include hitting, shaking, squeezing, burning or biting.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is when adults taking care of children and young people continuously fail to show them love or affection, or when they threaten or shout at them. Due to this the child will start to lose confidence and self-esteem, and may become nervous or withdrawn.  Sometimes adults may make excessive, aggressive and unreasonable demands on children cannot be achieved.  This is another form of emotional abuse which might lead the child to feel as though they are incompetent and not good enough.

Sexual abuse

Sexual Abuse includes contact between a child and an adult when the child is being used for sexual satisfaction of the adult person. This involves touching the child’s private parts, making a child touch the private parts of an adult, asking a child to show his/her private parts to other persons, and any other type of physical contact between a child and an adult that makes the child feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Sexual abuse can also happen online. Although the abuser may never even be seen, online sexual abuse is just as real and just as serious. Some forms of online sexual abuse can happen offline too, such as grooming (when an adult befriends a child and earns their trust in order to make them more vulnerable to sexual abuse) or sending inappropriate photos. Other types of sexual abuse are exclusive to the internet, such as spreading or threatening to spread private photos around the internet.

Neglect

Neglect occurs when caregiving adults fail to meet their child‘s essential needs, such as adequate food, warmth and medical care. Leaving young people who are too young to look after themselves alone or without proper supervision is also an example of neglect.

 

How can you recognise signs of abuse?

Sometimes people being abused might believe that they deserve the way they are being treated – that they must have done something wrong. Sometimes violent, abusive behaviour is what a person is used to within their family, which might make such behaviour seem like the normal way to treat others. It can be very difficult to recognise that the behaviour is abusive when it is us who is going through it. If any of the behaviours above sound familiar to you, you can speak with a trusted friend or adult who could help you to see the situation more clearly.

 

Why does abuse happen?

Sometimes abusers tell those who they’re abusing that they deserve what is happening in some way… that they ‘asked for it’. This is not true.

There are many things which might lead someone to become abusive, and there’s no one sign which can show us that a person is likely to be an abuser. But there are some factors which can make it more likely for a person to lose control.

Growing up in an abusive family might make someone feel that abusive behaviour is the normal way to relate to others and might carry on that behaviour in their newer relationships. With such an upbringing, one might not learn how to manage their feelings in healthy ways, which could lead them to react violently when faced with difficult emotions. Another factor which can contribute to this behaviour is drinking/drug use which can make self-control difficult. Finally, sometimes mental health issues can also contribute to abusive behaviour, as this might inhibit someone’s ability to think clearly, reasonably, and relate to others in healthy ways.

Not all people who have been abused, who have used alcohol/drugs, and who have mental health issues are abusive. Behaviour can be controlled and so, this is no excuse. People who are abusive can get help to learn to control their actions and relate to others in healthier ways.

The most important point to remember is that abuse is never the victim’s fault.

 

How can we stand up to abuse?

No one deserves to be treated this way. We all have a right to be treated with respect and to feel safe from physical and emotional harm. If you feel that something isn’t right, speak up and tell a trusted adult like a teacher, a school counsellor, or a family member what is happening. If they do not believe you, keep telling until you find someone who does. This person might want to report what you are going through to a police or child protective services. You can also report it yourself by calling 112 in an emergency, Appogg’s Supportline, 179, or if the abuse is taking place online it can be reported here:https://fsws.gov.mt/en/onlineabuse/Pages/report-online-abuse.aspx.  This can be very scary. We might be afraid of how the abuser will react or what will happen to us once action is taken. Remember that these services are there to protect you, not to cause you harm. If you have any questions, the person listening to you will explain to you what will happen next.

 

Things to think about:

  1. Abuse is always about control – the abuser keeps this control for as long as the abuse is kept a secret. If you are being abused in anyway speak to someone you trust, a family member, a neighbour, or a teacher, for example. You can also speak with us at Kellimni.com.
  2. If you have been abused, remember that this is not your fault. Adults have a duty to protect you. No one deserves to be abused.
  3. Abuse doesn’t necessarily have to be violent. Neglecting and not taking care of a child, or making someone believe that they are not good enough,or worthless is also abusive behaviour. This is the sort of harmful behaviour which other people might not see. Unlike physical abuse it does not leave marks on your body. Speak up!
  4. Abuse can happen to anyone in any situation.
  5. A good number of those who abuse of children are family members or close family family friends.

 

If you would like to speak about abuse or would like to clarify any questions, feel free to speak with us 24/7 through our chat, smart messaging app, or email. All of these are accessible at this link: https://kellimni.com/#contact-us