Part 8: Distinguishing between abuse and normal family life

Column courtesy of the Anti Violence Advocates Society in Barriere

It can be difficult for a young person to actually make the distinction between abuse and normal family life.

Every family has arguments and fall outs from time to time.

It’s quite normal to get it wrong, sometimes, while you’re growing up, and if you behave badly, it’s okay for your Mum or Dad to discipline you by removing privileges for a period of time, or to insist that you spend more time on your homework and less time with your friends for a while.

Parents can get stressed too, because life isn’t easy for grown-ups any more than it is for teenagers. Sometimes they can be cross and a little unreasonable, and you feel that they just aren’t being fair.

As long as they aren’t humiliating you by calling you names or hitting, threatening or withdrawing necessities from you, it’s probably normal.

A healthy family will overcome these problems quite quickly, by talking the problems through and finding reasonable, fair solutions.

If someone outside the family is abusing you, maybe a bully at school or an adult like a teacher or even a priest, you should feel able to talk to your parents about it and ask for their advice.

How abuse can

affect you

Of course, physical abuse affects you in obvious ways. You may be sore, injured or visibly scarred by violent attacks.

But the effects of abuse are not always as obvious. The emotional and psychological effects of abuse can be even more devastating than the physical.

Children or teens who have been sexually abused may develop unhealthy attitudes towards sex and be unable to form normal, loving relationships. They may become afraid to express love physically, or may feel that they need to have sex with every one they form any relationship with, inappropriately.

Many teenagers who are abused become withdrawn from their family and friends.

It can become harder to concentrate on school work, and their grades can suffer.  They might be frightened of going to school, especially if they are marked by abuse or are being bullied at school. They stop attending social events or sports clubs and hide away from the world.

This just increases a sense of isolation and makes it even harder for them to find help or for others to notice and offer assistance.

Bad behaviour at school or in the home can also be a direct consequence of abuse, as the young person loses their ability to distinguish between right and wrong or seeks attention in the only way they can.

Some teens who are suffering abuse feel so desperate that they even consider killing themselves. Young victims of abuse often feel that they are worthless and lose hope for the future.

If you feel like this, you can call helplines where someone will advise you and reassure you that there is a way out and that there are people who care.

If you have been living in an abusive relationship, you may feel confused and afraid and not know where to turn or what to do.

You may have mixed feelings of love and anger; wanting the abuse to end, but not wanting the relationship to be over.

If you are in immediate danger call 911. For help contact Interior Health Crisis Line 1-888-353-2273

AVA Society is collecting cell phones and their chargers to be used by families planning to leave an abusive situation. Drop off your old phones at  Armour Mountain Office Services. Thank you to Media Esteem. Kevin has agreed to clear the phones to factory settings.