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Physical abuse

Physical abuse is when someone deliberately hurts or injures you. It can include hitting, kicking, hair pulling, beating with objects, throwing and shaking. No one has the right to hurt you in this way.

Girl holding out her hand to say 'stop'

Physical abuse can
make you feel:

Anybody can be physically abusive including:

  • your mum, your dad or both
  • brothers and sisters
  • a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • other adults or young people

Bullying is also a form of physical abuse

Why do some people physically abuse other people?

This is a difficult question to answer as people who physically abuse others may give different reasons as to why they hurt another person in this way. Sometimes, certain things might trigger abuse such as alcohol or drug use.

Physical abuse might also be happening alongside other types of abuse:

There are no reasons that justify physical abuse. Abuse is wrong full stop.

  • What are examples of physical abuse?

    Physical abuse is when someone is hurting you. This could be hurting you with their hands, their feet, or an object and can involve:

    - hitting and smacking
    - slapping
    - punching
    - pinching
    - kicking
    - shaking or suffocating you
    - scalding or burning you
    - hair pulling
    - making you swallow something that hurts or makes you ill, including giving you medicine when you are not ill or do not need it

    Sometimes when we are used to something happening it becomes part of normal life, which makes it hard to understand that what is happening is wrong. This can include being brought up in a violent environment or being in a situation where abuse has been going on for a long time.

  • I'm being physically abused, is it my fault?

    No it’s not your fault. No one has the right to hurt somebody else. If someone is hurting you they are aware of what they are doing and know it is wrong. They may say they have reasons for doing this but none of those reasons are acceptable.

    The person who is hurting you might tell you that it’s your fault, to stop you telling anyone about what is happening. It isn’t your fault. Everyone has the right to be safe. No one has the right to hurt you. It shouldn’t happen and can be stopped.

  • What should I do if I’m scared about being physically abused?

    If you are being physically abused and feel you are in immediate danger, you can call the police (dial 999) and they will come and check your safety. It is okay to get upset about being physically abused, and this is a natural reaction to any kind of abuse.

    ChildLine are here for you if you are scared or upset about being physically abused or hurt. You can contact us online through 1-2-1 chat (like instant messenger), through email or phone free on 0800 1111.

  • You are not alone

    As well as speaking to a ChildLine counsellor; you can chat to other young people who might be in similar situation to you. Visit the ChildLine message boards to post a comment or read what others have said.

  • How can I tell if someone is being physically abused?

    Physical abuse, like all types of abuse, affects people in different ways. If someone is being physically abused they might have obvious signs such as bruises or cuts, but these signs could also be hidden under clothes. They might be unusually quiet and withdrawn, or they might lash out and become angry or violent.

  • I’m worried that my friend is being physically abused, what should I do?

    If you are worried about someone and think they might be being physically abused, you could try to talk to them, in private, about the problem. It’s important to let them know you are there for them and listen to them if they want to talk. You could encourage them to contact ChildLine if they don’t know who to talk to.

    If they are in trouble, or someone is hurting them, then you could tell someone you trust about it. You could talk to an adult you trust like a teacher or a friend's parent. If you don’t know who to talk to, you can always talk to ChildLine. 

    We are here for you if you are worried about a friend being physically abused.
    Get help and advice on helping a friend

  • Does telling someone about what’s happening make me a grass?

    No, telling someone about something like physical abuse doesn’t make you a grass or a snitch. If you or someone you know is being physically abused, keeping things quiet is not going to make the situation any better. If you find someone you trust and tell them about it, they can try and find a way to help.

  • What will happen if I tell someone about the physical abuse?

    It’s important that you try and tell somebody if you or a friend is being abused.

    Telling somebody you trust can:

    - make the abuse stop
    - help you to start living a happier life free from harm
    - protect other children and young people.

    If the person who is abusing you thinks they can get away with it, they may do it to someone else. If you’re unsure about what will happen if you tell somebody, you can watch a video about what happens when you call us.

  • I’m scared I’ll make things worse if I tell someone…

    Living with somebody who is physically abusing you is a scary situation to be in.

    You might be worried about:

    - when the next incident of abuse or argument will start
    - a younger sibling or another parent being a victim
    - parents/carers getting away with it /the abuse continuing
    - friends or neighbours finding out
    - the thought of living in care/where you will live
    - parents/carers getting into trouble if you tell someone.

    If you are concerned about any of these things you can talk to a ChildLine counsellor free on 0800 1111 or through 1-2-1 chat online. Calls are confidential and won’t show up on a phone bill including mobiles.

    Our friendly counsellors are here to listen and help talk you through your options. They will not judge you or put you down and are not easily shocked by what you tell them. Find out more about contacting ChildLine

    “They just talk to me like a friend. It’s really nice to know that you can talk to someone who treats you like you’re the only person in the world that matters"

  • Will my parents/carers get into trouble if I tell on them?

    If your parents are being physically abusive towards you, you might be finding it hard to tell somebody. It is not unusual to like or even love the person that is abusing you even though you don’t like what they are doing, especially if the person is your mum or dad. The abuse might also only happen on certain occasions for example, when a parent/carer has been drinking. Get information and advice on parents who drink

    No matter how often it happens or in what circumstances, what they are doing is wrong. It is not your fault and if left to continue can affect your future happiness and so it needs to stop. It is their responsibility to keep you safe from harm and if your parents/carers are hurting you, then it’s important that you try and tell someone about it. You are not alone – there are people who care about you and can help.

  • Who can I talk to about physical abuse?

    Talking about abuse can be difficult. When you’re ready to tell someone, it might help to write down what you want to say first or put it in a letter. Try and choose a person you feel comfortable with and who you think you can trust. If the abuse is happening at home, you might want to talk to somebody outside of the family such as a teacher or doctor.

    You might want to talk to a:
    - parent/carer
    - grandparent
    - friend
    - friend’s parent
    - teacher
    - school nurse
    - doctor
    - youth worker
    - ChildLine counsellor

    Get information and advice on how to ask an adult for help

    Speaking up for the first time about abuse can be hard. You might be wondering who you should talk to, what they might say and what might happen depending on who you tell. If you like, you can always chat with a ChildLine counsellor who can explain this in more detail. They won’t rush you into saying anything you don’t want to. Instead, they will listen and help you decide what the best option might be.

    You can contact ChildLine by phone on 0800 1111 or talk to us online

  • Will ChildLine tell anyone what I say?

    ChildLine is a private and confidential place for you to talk. This means that what you say stays between you and ChildLine. You don’t even have to tell us your real name if you don’t want to.

    We would only have to say something if…

    - you ask us to
    - we believe you or someone else’s life is in immediate danger and it is an emergency
    - you have been hurt by someone who has a position of trust and access to other children such as a teacher or police officer

    We want to keep you safe. However, we also understand the sort of situations you might be in. The last thing we want is to make things worse for you at home and put you in any more danger of being hurt. If we do need to tell somebody, we’ll try and give you as much control over what happens as possible.

    Experiencing physical abuse when you think you have nobody to talk to can leave you feeling very lonely. ChildLine is here for you whenever you need us. We hope that you get in touch.

    Read more about our confidentiality promise or our frequently asked questions about the ChildLine service

    "When I got through to ChildLine it took a bit of time for me to say anything. They didn’t hang up though. Anyway, what was really good was they couldn’t see my face so they wouldn’t know me if they saw me in the street. They were really patient and helped me say what I wanted in my own time, and helped me decide what to do next. When Social Services and the police got involved they were still there for me when it felt like no-one else was." Anonymous young person

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Chat to a ChildLine counsellor online in a 1-2-1 session any time you want. Sign up to start talking.

Online chat

Physical abuse

Are you being physically abused? Or just want to know more about physical abuse? You can read and post messages on the message boards.

Abuse and safety message board

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Physical abuse 


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