How you go about reporting abuse depends upon several factors, such as the nature of the abuse and the target of the abuse that is occurring. One general rule, however, is that approaching a local law enforcement agency or specialized nonprofit organization is often an excellent starting place for reporting abuse. Even forms of abuse that are not necessarily illegal can sometimes be precursors for more extreme behavior that crosses the line and breaks the law. Early detection of abuse and alerting agencies that can intercede on behalf of the victim can make the difference between a bad situation and a deadly one. There are phone numbers and Internet websites available for numerous groups that exist solely to help victims of abuse, such as Childhelp®, The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network® (RAINN), and The National Domestic Violence Hotline®.
You may find that you are the victim of some form of abuse, whether it is physical, mental, or verbal, in which case you owe it to yourself to report the abuse immediately. If you are a minor and do not know who to approach about reporting abuse, start with adults you trust who are not in immediate relationships with the abuser. Young people who are being abused at home by a parent or family member do not often know who they can find to receive help in reporting abuse. A teacher, police officer, doctor or other adult you know and trust can be a good start and may often help you in reporting the abuse or find someone who can directly help you.
If you are being abused by someone outside your family or in your extended family, start by reporting the behavior to your parents. They may not immediately believe you, especially if they trust the person who has been abusing you, but you should not be deterred by such an initial response. If your parents are unwilling to help you, then move outside their circle and find an adult who will help you, such as a teacher or police officer.
As an adult who is the victim of abuse or has witnessed abuse toward someone else, you have a very real obligation to yourself to report the behavior. Too often victims are either too ashamed or intimidated to go about reporting abuse themselves, and sometimes someone else has to step in and help a person who cannot help himself or herself. If the abuse is illegal, then local law enforcement officers should be contacted immediately. Any type of documentation, such as photographs or videos showing evidence of abusive behavior, should be brought forward immediately to help prove the abuse is occurring.