Before reading the following post, please note this information contains subject matter that may cause a deep emotional response. It is provided as an informational look into the findings, as well as assistance to those who have endured childhood trauma or who know of someone who may be in need of assistance. It will be the only post like it on my page, because while I support causes that work vehemently against the abuse and neglect of children, I also support the joy of writing and reading that comes from the growth and experience of moving forward. That said, there are resources provided at the end of the post for those seeking such assistance.
It’s obviously a very personal decision to share a story regarding trauma. It puts anyone who chooses to at the mercy of their audience for immediate judgment and the risk of losing relationships. It also makes some people uncomfortable to hear such stories because not everyone can empathize or understand how to sympathize with someone who has experienced childhood trauma and makes the person super uncomfortable – understandably so. It’s like a different world, an island of isolation, to the ears of someone who isn’t familiar with the effects of abuse. But it’s worth hearing the stories of others, because it’s exactly those experiences that connect us as human beings, and the more we know, the better people we can be to one another. After all, we are human before we are what we label ourselves as; Mom, Dad, Teacher, Engineer, Mechanic, Advisor, Doctor…you get the point. The purpose of posting this message is to express that a positive and successful life is possible after surviving such experiences, often in cases of multiple ‘assailants.’ It takes a tremendous amount of focus, attention, and to be brutally honest, no, I’m not always successful in managing it.
I’ve been told twice in my life, “You should be dead in a ditch, or strung out on drugs wasting away.” My reply: “Well, that serves no purpose. I can forgive them, I just don’t want to feel their pain anymore.” For me, the issue of trauma resolved years ago when I moved away at age of eighteen and broke social norms by saying ‘no more’ to their callousness. But like many who’ve been in the hands of careless adults, scars remain that come to the forefront at times, inconveniently forcing me to address them so I can continue the life I want for myself; a positive and healthy life that I deserve. I don’t want nor choose to be mired in the atrocities carried and inflicted by others, even if they turn out to be parents, those that are supposed to care for, support, and love us most. As a child I didn’t have a choice. Times were different. The people I sought help from at the age of eight were following ‘old’ procedure believing that parents, the very abusers, should be notified – not helped, but merely informed. As if the abusers would know how to handle a complaint raised against them for verbal and emotional abuse and neglect. As you might imagine, that invites additional abuse. Message the child receives: Don’t trust adults – even the nice, well-meaning types. As a side note, if you’re someone reading this who wants to help someone you suspect is potentially being harmed, contact a specialist, PhD or M.D., to ask how best to approach. I’ve included several good contacts/links below.
I learned two important facts after having come through some very ugly things, not all mentioned here: 1) Abusers hide behind a well-crafted image or persona that may seem exactly like your super-nice neighbor, a highly respected co-worker or boss that treats his/her employees well, and even someone who is involved in community service. They are often friendly, jovial, or charismatic to everyone else, because they can’t risk you seeing who they really are, their vulnerability, or how bad they feel behind that mask. And it takes a lot of effort to keep up that image. For some reason, it’s easier than laying out that pain and feeling vulnerable to a therapist to work through in an effort to find true happiness by resolving what made them become abusive in the first place. This brings me to 2) Many people carry pain from a young age and are often victims of abuse themselves. Whether the abuse involves being made to feel humiliated or shameful, being told lies about who we are as children (e.g., “You’re useless, stupid,” etc.) as an authoritative figure exerts power over a child often to boost their low self-esteem, or being beaten because a parent either believes a child should fear them to evoke the proper behavior – complete obedience or to make life appear as though the child doesn’t exist (e.g., “Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to”), it’s often the adult passing on their pain in some malign attempt to feel better. But it never results in that because the void the abuser feels is constant. In each case of abuse, disregarding the child’s feelings is a message that teaches children they don’t matter, not now and, more importantly, not ever, even as adults, increasing the chance for the cycle of abuse to be repeated when that child grows up and has children. That is, unless a conscious choice is made to break the cycle, seek help in recovering and resolving the pain inflicted upon you/the abused child. That’s the key. It involves a lot of work, time, and trust – because let’s face it, not all therapists are helpful. It takes someone really listening and with a background in trauma to understand and direct a person in finding the answers specific to each individual and the pace they can move.
Let’s be clear, most parents are loving, caring and interested in their children’s lives and welfare. And yes, as parents no one is perfect no matter the front you see. We all get busy and find that we don’t always have enough time, emotional bandwidth for our kids, nor do we always say exactly the right thing when we’re supposed to. But that isn’t what this post is about; the imperfections of being a parent. This subject is about parents who abuse their kids. Those that regularly ignore their children, leave them for days even as young children, don’t show any interest in them, have no care to hear their concerns, attend to their basic emotional needs, or to defend them against predators. Or, what is sometimes referred to as willful neglect. It’s also about emotional/psychological, physical, and sexual abuse and the effects that are so traumatic to cause PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome – where flashbacks and the feeling of being in that moment come rushing back as if we were reliving the event and its pain again and again.
Some of the data won’t surprise you, but some of it very well might. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the attached study (PDF). You may agree or disagree with certain points. That’s just fine. If you decide to delve a bit, please do so with an open mind, leaving judgment at the door. For those who’ve suffered from such victimization, please stop reading at any point where you begin to feel uncomfortable. Remember, the aim of this post is to inform, to create a bridge to better understanding through awareness, and to know you can not only survive but live the life you want for you. That’s all. And if none of this appeals to you, that’s okay, too.
- American Humane Association
63 Inverness Drive East
Englewood, CO 80112-5117
- Child Help USA
15757 North 78th Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
- American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law
740 15th Street, NW, 9th floor
Washington, DC 20005-1009
- American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
407 South Dearborn, Suite 1300
Chicago, IL 60605
- Child Welfare Information Gateway Children’s Bureau/ACYF/ACF/HHS
1250 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20024
- Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute
1121 East S.E. Loop 323, Suite 130
Tyler, TX 75701
- National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse
332 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1600
Chicago, IL 60604-4357
(800) CHILDREN – info. on getting involved/preventing abuse
(800) 55-NCPCA – info. on parenting/abuse
- National Organization for Victim Assistance
1757 Park Road NW
Washington, DC 20010
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network
635B Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20003