Children's voices

When we talk about the issue of child abuse, we need to always remember to listen to the most important voices of all; those of the children themselves. 

" ... it just creeps into every part of your life ..." Belinda, 16.

Here, you have a chance to read real quotes from real children and young people who have experienced abuse and neglect. They have given their permission for these excerpts to be used from research interviews that have been undertaken with them. Their names and identifying details have been changed to protect their anonymity. The quotes have been grouped together around relevant themes.

The impact of abuse on children and young people

Children commonly experience loss, betrayal, guilt, shame and self blame. Miranda,11, highlighted how the impact of abuse can be more traumatic the closer the relationship between the child and the abuser: " ...with my grandfather that went on for longer, but with my dad it was only like pretty short, but with my dad I thought it was really hard... " 

Child abuse can cause poor self esteem, learning difficulties and behaviour problems in children.
Michael, 12, described how his anger about the abuse would erupt in his behaviour at school: 
" ...Oh, we were looking for places for counselling because my attitude at school was really changing ... I was getting in a lot of trouble, getting in all these fights and that ... Well, if someone said just one thing to me ... if someone said like one word I'd be hitting him ...” 

Left unprotected and unsupported, children can often take these experiences into adulthood.
" ... You can't forget something like that. I'll still be dealing with things later down the track. It's always going to be in the back of your mind. I don't think it will ever go away ... " (Belinda, 16)

It’s just the way it is

Eliza, 17, was sexually abused by her father from a very early age. She cannot remember how old she might have been when it began. For her, the abuse was as much a part of her life as "washing the dishes or taking the dog for a walk."

She thought it was normal and had no idea that there were words for what her father was doing to her. Eliza believed that her family was ordinary and normal. This is how she described her family: "They seemed so normal and that really put doubts in my mind about the abuse and everything. You know, I've got a mum who's got a full-time job and you know, has lots of friends and goes out and does things on the weekends, and a dad who sits at a desk all day and goes running in the mornings and whatever, and everyone loves him and he’s got a great sense of humour and whatever, it sounds pretty normal to me."

How hard it is to tell someone

In these quotes children and young people who have experienced abuse explain how hard it is to speak about their experiences. For example, Sam, 8, highlighted the dilemmas of telling someone about the abuse.
" ... I did, but I didn't want to tell. I wanted to but I didn't want to ... I was thinking, if I told and he found out, I would be in trouble ... "

Peter, 11, said he found it hard to talk about his experiences of abuse, " ... probably because some things are embarrassing and some people hadn't believed me ..."

Describing at 11 years of age what it was like to talk about his abuse for the first time, Tom explained in a loud voice how he was: " ... frightened, very frightened … trust me, it's very, very scary ..."

Finally, in speaking about counsellors that she had seen as a result of being abused Fiona, 12, showed us a powerful insight into the inability of adults, even those trained to support children, to accept the terrible reality faced by some children. These are her words: " ... The problem with the counsellor … was that she didn’t want to believe the truth and that’s always the problem with these people; they don’t want to believe the truth, they just want to believe the easiest side, ... the side that is the simplest, basically. So then they get paid and go on to the next one and just pick the simplest out of that. They don’t want to hear the truth because the truth is so much harder to understand and so much longer than a lie about the truth ..."

The impact of abuse

"The bruises may fade, but the pain lasts forever." Elsa wanted to share with us the devastating impact of abuse.

It felt like I was at fault, like I was the reason why I was being hurt, as if I deserved it.


I so wish there had been someone like the Australian Childhood Foundation to help me when I was a child. I still struggle every day.


I have seen this first-hand.The outcome was utterly devastating. No more children need to go through this. We need to speak up for them.


I hope that with the Royal Commission, people now start to hear what you have been saying for years - we adults must keep children safe.


I hated counselling at first, but it helped a lot and still does. I am not as angry.

Simon, 17

Talking makes things a little better in my head. I feel empowered when I finish a session.

George (not real name)

Protecting children is something we can all do.


I wish this had been around 30 years ago when I was a child. I still struggle to regain a childhood lost to family violence.


A foundation that helps and listens is a foundation that saves.


Register your voice