Each state has their own official definition of abuse. They vary in depth and scope. Texas provides definitions for physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and various types of neglect.
Their definition of physical abuse includes the following: “deliberate actions resulting in injuries to a child or genuine threats of such actions, or concerns about physical injuries of an unexplained or suspicious nature.”
The definition of emotional abuse may also be relevant to your situation. Emotional abuse is defined as “an emotional or mental injury caused by the parent or caregiver that results in an observable effect on the child.”
Given these definitions, it would seem that your father may qualify as abusive. It’s not appropriate to treat children in the manner that you have described. The fact that your mother makes you hide from him would suggest that she is frightened of him also. It may also indicate that she feels powerless to intervene, perhaps fearing that it would exacerbate the situation.
Parents often say they hit their children to correct their behavior. Children who are physically punished have a higher risk for mental health problems including anxiety and depression. Children who are regularly hit by their parents also tend to be aggressive, both as children and as adults. There are more appropriate ways to correct unwanted behavior that don’t involve physical harm.
There are action steps you can take in this situation. I would recommend reporting this to the school guidance counselor or another trusted faculty member. Individuals who work in a professional capacity with children are typically mandated by law to report abusive situations. These reports are anonymous.
You can also make trusted family members aware of your concerns. They may be able to intervene.
Another idea is calling the authorities yourself. This could include calling the police or the Department of Family and Protective Services. Their phone number is 1-800-252-5400. You can also Google the words “online Texas abuse hotline for abuse” to make a report and to read more about abuse.
Often children are reluctant to report their parents who may be abusive. Understandably, they don’t want to get their parents into trouble. The primary goal of child protective services is to protect children at any cost. They want to ensure that all children are safe. That is a right that every child deserves. They are not looking to remove children from homes or break up families. Typically, their goal is to help parents be better parents. Many of their programs are supportive in nature and designed to increase the resources of struggling families for the sole purpose of ensuring safety in the home.
I’m sorry that you are having to deal with the situation. It’s difficult to function well when you don’t feel safe and are fearful of your parents. It’s important that you not keep this a secret and speak to an adult about what’s happening in your home. They can help you. Good luck and please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle