Parent Relationships: Am I Being Abused?

When I first started my radio career talking to teenagers and young adults, I quickly became amazed at what my audience wanted to talk about. Many of them wanted to talk about abuse in their family. I had no choice. I had to face the problem head-on.

For example I received a comment from an anonymous listener:

I come from a family with lots of abuse and confusion. My dad left barely over 2 years ago. He sexually abused me, my brother and my sister. I can't trust anybody. How am I supposed to trust again? Every time I let my guard down, I get hurt again.

Not only was this listener revealing the deep dark secrets of her family, but she was also speaking of the horrific consequences of those secrets. For anyone who has been abused in some way, or if you know somebody who has. This is something I must write about with the hope that what I have to say will help and encourage you in some way.

Do Abusive Parents Love Their Children?

Abusive relationships are difficult and draining for everyone, but especially for children who have been physically, verbally, or emotionally abused by their parents. Your parents may say they love you, but their actions may show you the opposite. If you do not feel loved by your parent, you need a safe place to talk about those feelings. You also need to know this for sure: abuse is never, ever your fault!

First, if you think you or someone you know is being abused, PLEASE chat with one of our Hope Coaches. All chats are free and confidential.

No one knows just how many people have been abused in some way in their home. But the numbers we do know are staggering:

  • There are nearly 3 million reports of child abuse made annually.
  • The rate of child abuse is estimated to be 3 times greater than is reported.

My guess is the problem is even greater than what you and I think it is.

What is abuse?

Abuse simply put, is when one person causes physical, sexual or emotional injury or harm to another. Federal law defines it as, any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

4 Specific Types of Abuse

PHYSICAL ABUSE: This abuse is usually the most easily identified. It can include any kind of non-accidental hitting, shaking, burning, biting, choking, throwing, or any behaviors that cause physical injury, leave marks, or create significant pain. Li commented on what it's like living in a physically abusive home: You feel like everything is your fault and that nothing you do is right. I was abused until I was 8 years old. First, I was emotionally and somewhat physically abused by my mother, and then strongly physically abused by my stepmother. While going through this, I had no one to turn to but my best friend.

SEXUAL ABUSE: Any type of sexual contact between an adult and anyone younger than 18, or between a significantly older child and a younger child is considered sexual abuse. This includes penetration or external touching of intimate parts, oral sex, indecent exposure or any other sexual act performed in your presence for sexual gratification. It can also include the showing of pornography to someone younger than 18. Emily says she has lived in an abusive, hazardous family situation her entire life. My dad started sexually abusing me at 6 years old, and it went on until I was 11. It was hard to deal with. I used to pretend that it didn't happen, but it did, and there isn't anything I can do about it. I never figured out a healthy way of dealing with it. I was anorexic for years. I used to cut myself. I was suicidal. I hated my life.

EMOTIONAL AND/OR VERBAL ABUSE: Emotional abuse happens when yelling and anger go too far or when parents constantly criticize, threaten, or dismiss kids or teens until their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth are damaged. It also includes constant family conflict. Emotional abuse can hurt and cause major damage just as physical or sexual abuse does. Jessie describes the verbal abuse in her family: My father yells at me whenever I question why. I am beginning to get bitter toward him because he seems to not trust me at all, and he seems to treat me like a slave, and it is hard to handle. I tried talking to him but once again he yelled at me, and I began to cry. I never yell at my dad but sometimes I would like to.

NEGLECT: You are considered to be neglected when your parent's whereabouts are unknown, if you've been left alone in circumstances where you suffer serious harm, or if your parent has failed to maintain contact with you. This also happens when you don't have adequate food, housing, clothes, medical care, education, or supervision. This is something Maria deals with. My dad was at a neighbor's house, drunk. He didn't call home or my cell to check on me. He didn't answer his cell when I called, nothing. I get home from school at 3 and my mom gets home from work at 9:30. My dad left the same time as my mom and didn't come home until nearly an hour later than my mom. The house was wide open. ANYTHING could've happened to me.

Do you identify with any of these forms of abuse? It is difficult admitting that you are being abused; especially if it's something you have lived with for many years. You might just think it's the way things are and there's nothing that can be done about it. You can also mistakenly think you bring abuse on yourself by not acting right, or by not living up to someone's expectations. The kinds of abuse listed above are not normal or healthy ways to treat people.

If you think you or someone you know is being abused, PLEASE chat with one of our Hope Coaches. All chats are free and confidential.

Get Help Right Away: If you need immediate help after assault, call 911. If you or someone you know is being abused or neglected, you can call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 422-4453. Push 1 to speak to a counselor.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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5 comments on “Parent Relationships: Am I Being Abused?”

  1. I've got to much to say. Before I had children I didn't see it around me and I didn't know it was me.
    Today, 2015 I'm not sure what is possible to keep going forward in life and to give my children life. I still don't know what to say. I mean the abuse doesn't stop until all emotions are leveled headed around.
    When do children stop being innocent and turn into the abuser to only be abused by people more and they themselves continue the abuse but they know and there's no one around them they know who they feel comfortable with to talk about feelings and never having that trust broken.
    Reading this hurts me but its gives me that hope. I'm crying in the dark writing this and deleting and rewriting. Just the one sentence saying, comment below tell your story.
    And I can't walk away after this. I know my life is getting worse. And I want to stay to learn more so I know life is good. I know life is good because that's what I want, that's what I want for my children, is a good life.

  2. I was just hoping to encourage people who are reading this and realizing for the first time that they might have been or are being abused. I realize that it can be incredibly difficult to admit or get your mind around. It was my first year in college when I realized that my home was emotionally abusive. Until that point I thought it was painful, but quite normal. And I was so ashamed at first. I couldn't admit it to anyone for months. I couldn't say the word "abuse." It was just too horrifying. But it was worth it. Because as I started to classify particular experiences as "abusive," they started to have less control over me. I could realize that particular experiences hurt me because they were wrong and not because there was something wrong with me. It helped me begin to understand who and what to stay away from, in order to protect myself. I was emotionally and verbally abused for at least 20 years growing up, and sometimes it still hurts indescribably, and I still fight the lies that I learned from it. And beginning to face it and starting to tell other people about it was one of the scariest things I've ever done, but it was totally worth it. So please face it. It's the only way that I know of, to begin to be free from it.

  3. When it comes to my physical wellbeing my parent's have been there for me but when it comes to the emotional wellbeing they haved not. all my life I have had to face verbal abuse from parents but when I was 15 till now it got worse. I dont know how to cope with the damaged that has been done by the verbal abuse. my parents are very negative and unreasonable people both big drinkers more my mum then my dad.

  4. my father would always get mad easy. he wouldn't beat us or anything he let his out thru verbal emotional abuse etc. I learned to stay in my room away from the" family". at one point he said he didn't want his kids. the parents split the first time mom left her kids for a guy in New York she met online. 2011I moved with my mom. . since moving with my mom. she got into prostitution and lied broke in stole things. rumors were started about me and my husband. she got my blood family back home threatening to kill my husband.. I was happy with some finally. she never wanted me to leave her side. story short. she mmoved. and I'm finally away from it all. but I still let it get to me..

    1. Tiffany, Thank you for sharing your story. You have gone through much in your life and it's important to continue talking about your story to move forward. We want you to know we are here for you and care about you if you ever need to talk. Please call or chat with a HopeCoach that cares anytime 24/7 at 800.394.4673. If you want download our free app to your phone to chat, call, email and get encouraged here is the link to download it.

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