Child abuse

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Child abuse is against the law. 

You have the right to be safe from all types of abuse and neglect, both at home, at school and in the community. You do not have to put up with child abuse. It is OK to complain and to talk to someone and get help. We explain who you can talk to below.

If you are in immediate danger of being hurt or abused, please call the police on 000 and if you can, try to go to a secure place like to a trusted family friend, your school, a police station, or a medical centre.

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What is child abuse?

Child abuse is any action towards a child or young person under 17 that harms or puts at risk their physical, psychological or emotional health or development.

Child abuse can be:

  • physical abuse: This includes punching, hitting, strangling, slapping, kicking, shaking, biting, throwing and burning;
  • emotional or psychological abuse: This includes constant criticism, controlling behaviour, teasing, ignoring, yelling, rejection, exposing a child to violence between parents or other household members, or exposure to drug use;
  • neglect: This includes failing to meet your basic needs for adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter, safety, hygiene, medical care and education; 
  • sexual abuse: This includes any sexual act or threat to you including an adult involving you in a sexual activity by using their power over you or taking advantage of your trust, and deliberate and inappropriate touching or language. 

Child abuse can be a one-off thing or continue over a long period of time. Child abuse can happen anywhere. The abuse could be done by any adult, like a parent, a caregiver, a teacher or a family friend.

Child abuse can also include domestic or family violence, for example violence between your parents or other family members. See our fact sheet on Domestic Violence for more information.

Is it ok for my parents to physically punish me or hit me if I've done something wrong?

No one is allowed to use extreme force to hurt you, but it is not against the law for your parents to use physical punishment, such as a smack. 

However, if your parents are using more than a little bit of force, or they hurt you more than they should for someone your age or maturity, this can be against the law.  If you feel that you are being punished too harshly, too often or are constantly scared of being hurt, or you have any injury after being hit, we strongly encourage you to speak to a trusted adult for help. For example, you could speak to a trusted adult like a teacher, family member, or counsellor.  We have listed some people you can talk to further below.

What should I do if I’m being abused or scared that I will be abused?

If you are in immediate danger of being hurt or abused, please call the police on 000 and if you can, go to a secure place like to a trusted family friend, your school, a police station, or a medical centre.

If you have been hurt it is important to go to a doctor or hospital, so they can make sure you are okay.

Tell someone

If you are being abused you can talk to an adult you trust, like your doctor or a teacher. It’s important to know that people like teachers, doctors and police are ‘mandatory reporters’ and are required by law to make a report to child protection authorities if they think you are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing child abuse. All reports are confidential, so the person who hurt you will not be told who reported it, they will only be told the nature of the report so that the authorities can investigate. For more information on what happens when the authorities investigate a report, you can visit this website: https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/child-protection

Who can I talk to about what’s going on?

Kids Helpline 

To talk about anything that’s troubling you at all call the Kids Helpline. This is a supportive service for people between 5 and 25 years of age. They are available 24 hours and you can call them on 1800 55 1800.  You can also email them by going to: https://www.kidshelpline.com.au/get-help/email-counselling

They also have an online chat service at: https://www.kidshelpline.com.au/get-help/webchat-counselling

Child Protection Hotline

You can report the abuse to your local government area’s Child Protection line. You can find the numbers to call here: https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/reporting-child-abuse

Victoria also has an after hours child protection emergency service that you can call on 131 278 (available from 5pm to 9am Monday to Friday and 24 hours on weekends and public holidays).

It’s important to know that child protection authorities may not respond to every report they receive, so it’s important to make a report every time something happens.

If you are having problems at home, you can get help here and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us is confidential and we will not tell anyone, including your parents. Lawyers are not mandatory reporters, and are not legally required to make a report to authorities like doctors, teachers and police are.

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