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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:

If you are being physically abused or hurt, ChildLine is here for you. Our counsellors will listen in a friendly way and will not judge you. You can contact us online through 1-2-1 chat or send an email. You can also phone free on 0800 1111.


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
  • scratching or biting
  • hair pulling
  • spitting or throwing things at you
  • making you swallow something that hurts or makes you feel ill, including giving you medicine when you are not ill or do not need it

Anybody can be physically abusive, including:

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

Bullying may often include physical abuse.

Sometimes, when we are used to something happening, it feels like it is part of normal life. This can make it hard to understand that what is happening is wrong. It can happen if you are in a situation where abuse has been going on for a long time.

Physical abuse is never your fault.



Why do some people physically abuse other people?

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

Physical abuse can happen alongside other types of abuse:

Physical abuse is never okay, no matter what reasons someone gives. It's always wrong.

  • I'm being physically abused. Is it my fault?

    No, it’s not your fault. No one has the right to hurt somebody else. They may say they have reasons for doing it, but none of those reasons are acceptable.

    The person who is hurting you might tell you that it’s your fault or that they are punishing you. But nothing you have done makes it okay for someone to hurt you. Abuse is never your fault.

    If someone is hurting you, they are aware of what they are doing and know it is wrong. They may try to stop you telling anyone about what is happening.

    Everyone has the right to be safe, and 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. 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. You can contact us online through 1-2-1 chat, or you can send an email. You can also 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 a similar situation. 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, sometimes 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, stressed or violent.

  • I’m worried that my friend is being physically abused. What should I do?

    If you are worried someone 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 suggest they contact ChildLine if they don’t know who to talk to.

    If they are in trouble, or someone is hurting them, then you could talk to an adult you trust about it, 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. Check out our help and advice on helping a friend.

  • If I tell someone what’s happening, does it make me a grass?

    No. Telling someone about physical abuse doesn’t make you a grass or a snitch. If you or someone you know is being physically abused, the quickest way to change things is to tell someone. 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 are being abused, or if a friend is.

    Telling somebody you trust could:

    - 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.

    If you contact ChildLine, whatever you say is confidential. We would only need to tell someone if we believe your life is in immediate danger, or you are being hurt by someone in a position of trust who has access to other children, such as a teacher.

  • 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:

    - being hurt even more
    - when they will be violent to you next
    - when the next argument will start
    - a brother, sister or another parent being being hurt
    - the violent person getting away with it
    - friends, neighbours or other people finding out
    - where you will live if you tell someone
    - whether you might end up living in care
    - parents or 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 won't judge you. They won't put you down, and they won't be easily shocked by what you tell them. One young person who contacted us said: 

    “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."

    Find out more about contacting ChildLine.

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

    If your parents or carers are hurting you, you might find it hard to tell somebody. It is possible to still like or love the person who 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 at certain times, such as when they have been drinking.

    No matter how often it happens or in what situation, what they are doing is wrong. If it keeps on happening, it can affect your future happiness, so it needs to stop.

    Parents and carers have a responsibility to keep you safe from harm. If your parents or carers are hurting you, it’s important to 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 or carer
    - grandparent
    - friend
    - friend’s parent
    - teacher
    - school nurse
    - doctor
    - youth worker
    - ChildLine counsellor

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

    If you like, you can always chat with a friendly 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.

    If you like, you can read more about our confidentiality promise or check out some questions young people often ask about the ChildLine service.

    One young person who spoke to a counsellor said:

    "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.drinking When Social Services and the police got involved they were still there for me when it felt like no-one else was."

  • Someone in my family is physically abusing someone else.

    When an adult attacks another adult in the family, or threatens them, this is often called domestic violence. Seeing or hearing this can be very upsetting. You might like to read our page on domestic violence.

    If you are worried about another child or young person in your family, you could try talking to them in private about it, and encourage them to contact ChildLine. You could also tell an adult you trust about it. If you are worried about another person in your family being abused, ChildLine are here for you too.

Other sites that can help

Types of abuse and ways to get help.
YoungMinds Child Abuse page

Spot the signs of relationship abuse, and get support.
This Is Abuse

Advice for young people living with domestic violence.
The Hideout

Online chat

If someone is physically hurting you, you can chat to a ChildLine counsellor online in a 1-2-1 session. Sign up to start talking. It’s free and confidential.

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

Did this page about physical abuse help you? If so, tell us how.


Physical abuse 


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