GITTA HODGETTS

learn to listen as much as you speak

WHY CHILD ABUSE IS THE WORST KIND OF ABUSE

I would apologise for today’s topic. It’s not exactly warm or fuzzy. But the thing is…I’m not even a little bit sorry. So, I would be wasting your time and my breath.

The truth is that the conversations that are difficult to have are more often than not exactly the things we need to talk about. So, listen up.

I don’t want to rate the effect that different kinds of abuse can have on the victim.

I don’t want to belittle the experience that anyone has been through.

It is all awful. It is all so dark and so cruel that there really are no words that could bring justice to what it means to be a victim of abuse.

The experience may differ slightly from person to person…but the pain is the same.

The invisible scars that seem to never heal are carried by everyone who has lived through that awful shit.

From my perspective though (and it is only my perspective) child abuse is a different kind of evil.

Again…all abuse is evil. It’s all dark, messy, cruel shit. All a little bit different but all vile, none the less.

There a few different reasons that child abuse stirs a certain kind of blind anger in me.

Everyone has a line. A place where kindness seems to evaporate and the warrior inside them rears its ugly head.

For me, child abuse is that line.

All forms of child abuse. Sexual. Physical. Mental. Psychological.

When I hear about stories of child abuse I have no compassion for the perpetrator.

I talk about kindness a lot but I can not find it in myself to have compassion and empathy for anyone who would harm a child.

Mental illness is not now, nor will it ever be, an excuse to harm anybody. Especially children.

Now, I want to reiterate here that all kinds of abuse make me a special kind of mad.

Child abuse may be one of the only ways to make me unquestionably hate you on site for the rest of your life.

I’m not positive about this because I’ve never had the theory tested…but along side rape and murder it may be the only thing you could do that I would consider unforgivable.

And here’s why.

When you’re abused as a child…abuse becomes all that you know.

What do I mean by that exactly?

I mean that if somebody is abused as a child then that abuse becomes normalised in their minds.

Yes. Normalised.

It is the day to day occurence. Abuse becomes part of the schedule. So much so that a victim of child abuse may never recognise the abuse in the first place.

That may seem like an incomprehensible concept to you. How could abuse ever be normalised in anyone’s mind?

Well, your experiences as a child are the only experiences that you have. There is nothing else to compare it to.

If you are abused as an adult you have a whole lifetime of experiences to call on that tell you that something is wrong with the situation you are in.

Even if you can’t find a way out of that situation. Even if you are stuck in a never ending cycle.

There is still at least a small part of you that knows something isn’t quite right with your situation.

You have enough experiences to tell you something is wrong. Even if you can’t quite put your finger on what it is.

Children don’t have that.

In the mind of a child…there is no other way to live but in the abusive cycle that they have always been apart of.

There is no one outside the cycle of abuse to break the narrative that the kinds of behavior they are being subjected to…are not normal and they are not okay.

Why not?

Because child abuse…more often than not…remains a secret.

No one knows they need to tell the shy, fourteen year old kids with poor social skills and good grades that it’s not normal to always obey your parents for no reason other than fear.

Because who would think that’s an emotion that a parent would ever conjure in their child?

No one.

Only abusers and victims know that these kind of mental abuses happen.

Why?

Only abusers operate on that kind of emotionally, mentally manipulative level where they think it is in any way justifiable to treat anyone as they do.

And the only other people that ever see it are the victims.

Before I continue…let’s make no mistake about it. I am not a psychologist or a mental health professional or an expert of any kind.

I am simply an observer. Somebody else turned the light on for me in a darkened room I didn’t even know existed. And now, I am attempting to do the same for you.

So, what is one of the main reasons that child abuse so often goes unnoticed and unheard?

Aside from the fact that children have next to no voice in our society? Aside from the fact that their abusers so often have complete control over the lives of the children?

Many victims of child abuse don’t even realise they are victims at all.

Like I said, the behaviour they are subjected to in the home becomes normalised in their minds.

This isn’t abuse. This is punishment. They believe that they were disobedient. They believe they deserve to be punished. They believe they should be grateful for the chance to learn to be better.

Sick. Isn’t it? But it happens. Far too often.

Many survivors struggle to believe the abuse happened. They don’t want to believe it. It’s too painful to think about. They don’t want to accuse family members or face the terrible loss involved in realizing “a loved one” hurt them; they don’t want to rock the boat.

LAURA DAVIS, Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor Of Child Sexual Abuse

The aftermath of child abuse often goes unnoticed or worse…mistaken for something else entirely…

If a survivor of child abuse is brave enough to come forward and talk about their experience as an adult…people don’t think of a child being abused.

They think of the adult sitting in front of them being abused as a child.

Which I know sounds like the same thing but trust me…it isn’t.

You are seeing an adult who has already lived through the worst things they will ever experience in their life.

You don’t know the child that was locked in the cupboard. You never saw them.

You see an adult. An adult who has come through the other end of that experience and is somehow still alive, breathing and coherent enough to tell you their story.

It may not be a conscious reaction but the fact the survivor is sitting in front of you and they are seemingly okay…it can lessen the crime in the mind of people who didn’t witness it.

When you see an adult live through abuse…you can quite literally see their behaviors and mannerisms change as a result.

The aftermath, the effect it has on the victim is obvious. It changes who they are and they way they react to situations that would have previously been normal for them.

You can even identify that someone you care about is in a toxic situation by the sudden change in their nature and mannerisms.

It doesn’t work that way with children.

Any changes in behavior that occur at the time are put down to childishness or teenage moodiness or one of the many phrases adults use to silence kids who are quite obviously crying out for help.

The long term effects on their lives…the lack of an ability to form meaningful attachments to other people, the toxic relationships they find themselves in, the closed off personality, the blatant distrust of people they don’t know, the fear of intimacy…it is all put down to apart of who they are.

Just a few weird quirks in their personality.

Not a sign of trauma. Not a sign of childhood wounds that have been bleeding all over the place since age nine.

What would otherwise be identified as obvious signs of past trauma are put down to nothing more than a part of the victims identity.

Why? Because the trauma happened so long ago that you have never actually seen them behave in any other way.

Like most survivors of abuse…the vast majority of victims of child abuse will never admit than anything happened to them.

The ones that do talk about it will be treated with a mix of skepticism and naive sympathy.

It takes an incredibly brave kind of person to come forward and talk about that kind of thing to anyone.

After all, children who are abused are raised to keep the secret.

If you talk about it…then you are a rat. You have snitched on your own family. It is unforgivable.

To someone who is only familiar with the concepts of rats and snitches from their favourite prime time drama series…that might seem silly.

How could an adult who was formerly the victim of child abuse believe that talking about their experience made them a rat?

Well, first things first.

No one is ever a former victim of child abuse. Survivors will carry those scars and the lessons that went with them for the rest of the lives.

Make no mistake. Abuse is not a one time, accidental event.

It is deliberate and it is continuous. It beats people into a mold that is almost unbreakable.

Child abuse victims will be trained by their abuser to behave in certain ways and think in patterns that differ drastically from the thought patterns of a child from a happy home.

Children from abusive families have no childhood. They are required to act like an adult in order to survive in their home from they moment they old are enough to comprehend orders.

Child abusers quite literally steal their victims innocence.

But the number one reason I think child abuse is the worst kind of abuse…

It is the only form of abuse where you will hear people tell the the victim that their abuser loves them.

It is meant to be comforting. Reassurance that just because their mummy and daddy hurt them…doesn’t mean they don’t love them.

It actually only serves to be more damaging. You’re reinforcing the narrative in the victims mind that this abusive behaviour is normal.

Even worse…you’re telling the child that it is how people who love each other behave.

Tell me…would you tell someone who was a victim of intimate partner violence that their abuser loved them?

Hell no.

You wouldn’t!

Why? Because it only enables the person to stay in that toxic situation.

The same is true for victims of child abuse.

You are telling the child that this behaviour is justified by their parents love of them.

You are telling the child that love justifies all sins.

And that is a message that they will carry with them into every relationship, sexual or platonic, that they ever have.

So, even though you think you are helping…can we please make a promise right now? That you will never tell a victim of child abuse that mummy and daddy still love them?

It is perhaps the most damaging thing you can say to a survivor.

You wouldn’t say that to an adult who had survived abuse. Don’t say it to someone who has survived abuse as a child.

That might be all I have in me on this subject for the moment. These words just kind of flew out of me onto the screen. And now you’re reading them.

All I can say now is, give em hell. And be kind, my loves.

Gitta

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