DEAR ABBY: This letter is in response to your recently printed letter from "Concerned in Pennsylvania," who asked what advice could be given to children who suffer abuse in their homes and cannot leave. We receive calls of this type regularly at Childhelp USA.
While all forms of abuse or neglect are harmful physically, emotionally or psychologically to children, authorities may not think a situation is serious enough to permanently remove children from their homes. Moreover, the abuse may be unknown to all but the perpetrator and the victim. Often victims are scared silent because they are frequently threatened, told it's all their fault or that no one will believe them. Victims may have mixed feelings because the perpetrator is an important person in their lives.
Youngsters in these types of situations must be made aware of the following:
1. You are a victim, and the abuse you are suffering is not your fault.
2. You do not deserve to be treated this way.
3. If you are being burned, bitten, or hit hard enough to leave marks or bruises, you are being abused.
4. If you are not being fed well enough or taken to the doctor when you are sick, if you are locked in a room for hours, or left home alone at too young an age -- you are being neglected. Neglect is a form of abuse.
5. If you are made fun of, called names, told you are unwanted or that you are worthless or stupid, you are being emotionally abused.
6. If any of the above are being done to you, please find someone you trust and tell them. A family member, a teacher, the school nurse, the school counselor, someone at your church, a neighbor or anyone you can trust must be told. Ask them for help. Make them believe you. Show them the marks.
7. Try not to be alone with any person who hurts you.
8. Listen to your little voice inside when it says that what is being done to you is not right.
Childhelp USA serves the United States, its territories and Canada 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You don't have to give your name and address, and no fee will appear on your phone bill. Our counselors are professionals who understand your problems and are always ready to help. We can take calls in 140 languages. The Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-422-4453. The TDD line for hearing-impaired is 1-800-222-4453. The Web site is www.childhelpusa.org.
You never have to feel that no one cares or there is nowhere to turn. Call! -- CHRIS MONACO, PH.D., DIRECTOR
DEAR CHRIS: Yours is one of the most important letters I have ever received. People who suspect a child they know is being abused should call local child protection agencies, local law enforcement or the Childhelp USA Hotline. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I have important advice for children who are being abused:
If you are being hurt by someone through sexual, physical or emotional abuse, or are thinking about hurting yourself, please call your local law enforcement officials or our Boys Town National Hotline, 1-800-448-3000. Help is available.
We also provide tips for children and parents on our Web site: www.boystown.org.
If you do not have a trusted adult or someone who will listen, our highly trained telephone counselors will listen and do something to help. -- FATHER VAL J. PETER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BOYS TOWN USA
DEAR FATHER PETER: I commend you and your staff for the wonderful work at Boys Town. Thank you for making this service available to boys AND girls.