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How To Know If Your Parents Are Abusive

Could the way your parents treat you constitute criminal child abuse? Laws differ from state to state, but here are the general guidelines.


  • Step 1: Realize that, in some circumstances, parents who use or sell drugs are guilty of child abuse in some states. If your parents are involved with illegal drugs, ask a teacher or another adult for help.
  • Step 2: If you've experienced any of these situations, get help immediately. If there's no one you can talk to, call Childhelp USA at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. Remember, how your parents behave is not your fault.
  • FACT: As of 2007, 21 states considered the failure to educate a child as neglect, and therefore as a form of child abuse.
  • Step 3: If one or both of your parents are having sex with you, they are guilty of abuse; report it immediately to a teacher, your doctor, or call the police. If your parents encourage you to have sex for money or allow you to be photographed or videotaped naked or performing sexual acts, they are also guilty of child abuse.
  • Step 4: Recognize that neglect is a form of abuse. If your parents are not providing you with enough food, proper clothing, shelter, and medical care, or if they're not supervising you properly, they may be abusing you.
  • Step 5: Recognize whether you're being emotionally abused. If you are constantly being criticized, threatened with harm, or humiliated by one or both parents, they may be guilty of emotional abuse -- particularly if the way they treat you has caused you to become anxious or depressed, or has made you violent.
  • TIP: As of 2007, Georgia and Washington did not recognize emotional abuse.
  • Step 6: Know what crosses the line from punishment to physical abuse. Any action that causes you significant pain, leaves a mark on your body, or results in an injury is physical abuse.

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