CHILD ABUSE Child abuse statistics keep rising in the United States. For decades, this crime perpetrated against children was not spoken of in society. If they saw a child being beaten, cursed , shamed in front of others, people averted their eyes. Society considered children as property of the parents and the parents were given the right to discipline their children any way they saw fit. They were often sent into the fields to work at a very young age, or they were given to neighbors to work in order to repay old debts. Society passed Laws to prevent the labor of children whose childhoods had been lost.
When the internet came into existence and people were able to see and do whatever they wanted to at home without embarrassment, the pornography industry took off like a rocket, and a segment of that industry specifically targeted young children and teenagers. Being a crime, was not enough to deter the pedophiles. Many of them began abducting children. They kidnapped children walking to school, playing in the streets, and took children from their own homes. This caused fear and parents tightened the rules about children playing outdoors, or walking to school without older children or parents being present. The perpetrator was often seen as some stranger lurking in the shadows.
It was only in the last fifty years that survey data indicated some young adults were reporting they experienced their first sexual encounter, as children or in their early teens, with someone they knew and lived with or another relative. It was alarming because society could not believe a parent could do this to a child, let alone a sibling sexually abusing a smaller child in the home. Later studies also validated this was occurring. In the beginning, it was easier for some in society to believe it wasn’t true and children were just imagining it or were lying in order to manipulate their parents to give them things they wanted. They accused Therapists of brainwashing clients or manipulating them for some nefarious reason, such as trying to alienate the child from his/her family system or keeping the client in therapy longer to make more money. When adults became brave enough to seek help, some found themselves being victimized again, first by the perpetrator and then by society.
The toll was great on the lives of the abused adult children. They had high rates of depression and anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal problems, marital difficulties, sexual dysfunction disorders, relationship issues, alcohol and drug problems, eating disorders, self-injuring behaviors, higher rates of attempted suicide, difficulties in knowing how to parent children, and problems with trust and anger. The cost of treatment for all of this was astronomical. On top of that, were the lost days of work due to anxiety and depression. Some of the adult survivors were unable to work and went on disability because of the damage done by the trauma.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is also common in adults who were sexually abused as children. They often experience mood swings, have recurring flashbacks about the abuse, and have sleep problems. It is hard for them to trust other people. They frequently struggle with shame and have difficulty regulating their anger. It is hard for them to believe in hope or any kind of future because they carry the weight of the trauma on their backs. They have difficulty finding happiness. The trauma is ongoing because, when they get with family members on the holidays, the abuse memories resurface.
In some of the posts that follow, I will attempt to speak for the survivors who still struggle from time to time with their abuse. Most of all, I will speak for those children now who may be experiencing abuse and are silent because of fear. There is hope in a future for these children, but they will have to endure a lot of pain and sadness working through their feelings about the abuse in treatment.
This paper was written based on thirty years of experience working in the mental health field as a professional, and working in conjunction with the Area Rape Center where I lived, and Child Protection Services.
Judith Herman’s book : Trauma and Recovery. The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror, was helpful.
The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook written by Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D. was useful.