Child Neglect and Abuse - The Shame and the Guilt
The Consequences of Child Abuse
If you are a victim of child abuse and neglect, you understand about shame. This shame and guilt remains throughout the victims life, manifesting itself in a variety of ways. What I want to make clear right here and now is, abuse is not your fault. There are legitimate reasons for the shame you carry:
- Neglect - When a child is neglected, they feel they are unlovable because if they were lovable their parents wouldn't neglect them. As they grow and mature they find themselves putting up with poor treatment by others, believing that they, alone, brought it on themselves.
- Emotional Abuse - This type of abuse is humiliating to the child. Some of the signs of emotional abuse include stuttering, low self-esteem, feeling unworthy of being loved and depression. Those, suffering from emotional abuse, desperately seek attention.
- Sexual Abuse - This type of abuse causes the child to feel guilty and ashamed which can linger for the rest of their life. Confusion and distrust remain which can cause nightmares.
- Physical Abuse - When a child is purposely, physically, injured or put at risk of harm by another person, the child is left with both physical and emotional scars. They are sometimes plagued by unusual fears. Feelings of low confidence escalate.
It's important to know that some children overcome emotional and physical abuse. This is especially true when the child has a strong support system to help them adapt to the abuse.
I Am Unlovable - It's My Fault
When children are restricted from love, they think it is their fault. They perceive themselves to be unlovable. Then they learn to live with shame. Children carry guilt because they think they are "bad." After all, if they were good then the parents would love them. It makes perfect sense to a young child.
When harshness and criticism are added to the situation, the child is learning that he is a disappointment. Kids learn exactly what they live. If they live with love, they grow up feeling loved and they can love in return. When they live a life of neglect and cruelty, they often express this abuse later in life by becoming co-dependent.
Combining all this with additional drama and possible violence, more self-blame burns deeper and deeper. What follows, for the child, is the development of the self-image. This erroneous blame becomes the child's belief system.
Even when a much-needed compliment comes, the child quickly and adamantly defends his position. Instead of replying "thank you" he questions his own worth by asking "do you really think so?" Or worse yet, he will assure the giver of the compliment that he's not worthy of the compliment by rejecting it completely.
This painful behavior is very sad. Children learn from a very tender age that they are loved, and most of that comes from trust. You will never gain trust from a child when you confuse them with your own emotions. It makes no sense to tell a child you love them followed by a severe slap in the face or abusive comment. This is not only confusing to the child, it's downright abusive as well.
So where is love? It is found in the nurturing, it is found in the warmth of loving arms, it is found in the power of words, it is found in the trust and joy of being a child growing up in a safe place..
Most of all, love is found by giving unconditional love and treating the child with respect.
Being Told We're "Bad" Damages Us Through Adulthood
Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.
Living With Child Abuse
As a child she gave her all
trying to please her mother
though she stood but 3 feet tall
she takes care of her sister and brother
Living in fear of the screaming voice
that greeted her each day
She grew to realize she had no choice
No love would be coming her way
She started school at the age of five
trembling from head to toe
wanting to run away and hide
as fast as she could go
Where is Love?
But her beautiful teacher, Miss Butterfield
Held her close to her soft warm breast
Drying the tears that began to build
And soothing the pain in her chest
“I don’t want to go home, Miss Butterfield
Can I go home with you?”
Knowing that she could not yield
she did what she had to do
At home, the dishes were waiting
and ironing piled up high
no cookies for the taking
only little shoes to tie
Tip-toeing to her mother
She said, “I love you, so.”
“and I love you like no other
I just wanted you to know.”
Bedtime comes and with it dreams
A journey to forever-land
Where no one yells and no one screams
And no one ever raises a hand
The little child is sent a friend
A piano is the name
She sings and plays day after day
Music and joy become her game
Melodies come easily as she starts to play
Making music to fill her heart
at last she knows she has found her way
Her “friend” and she will never part
Today she gives thanks for her childhood
“Miss Butterfield” and music dear
And now when she looks in the mirror
It all becomes so clear
It took a challenging childhood
and a desperate need for love
It took some prayers and a child's voice
speaking to God above
She learned to give to others
with kindness and with song
The gift of unconditional love
to give her whole lifelong
How to Prevent Child Abuse and Alternatives to Unhealthy Discipline
Not all child abuse is intentional. And I'm not excusing the actions used that are abusive or the person inflicting the abuse. Not at all. However, there are many people who just don't realize that they are being abusive. They truly think that their behavior is justified. They mimic what they have learned from their own parents.
For these people as well as others who may be "in the dark" about preventing abuse on a child, here is a good tip to practice:
Never discipline a child when you are angry or upset. This rule is crucial to the prevention of abuse on a child. Use every bit of self-control you have and wait until you are in a calm state before issuing discipline.
Take a minute to think of what the word "disciple" means. A disciple is a follower of good. A disciple is also a teacher. A teacher evokes patience and understanding. I don't know about you, but I never learned a history lesson by being slapped in the face or hit on my back-side.
So what is the better alternative? Try using privileges to encourage good behavior:
- Reduce or omit television time.
- Limit the use of favorite games.
- No cell phone privileges.
- No sleep-overs.
You know your child. Choose wisely when denying privileges and make the denial reasonable. This can help your child regain control and give them time to think about their behavior.
Signs of Child Abuse And Neglect
The following signs may signal abuse or neglect. It is our duty to report any of these signs:
- Inadequate adult supervision.
- Shows sudden changes in behavior and in school performance.
- Shows up early for school and stays late not wanting to go home.
- Has trouble concentrating or other signs of learning problems that are not connected to a physical or psychological cause.
- Always being watchful as if something bad is about to happen.
- Hasn't received help for physical or medical problems that have been brought to the attention of the parent.
- Comes to school with no lunch or money, or a ticket for lunch, day after day.
- Wets their pants.
- Isolates themselves at play time.
- Cries for seemingly no reason.
- Stutters, excessive fidgeting, falling asleep in class are other signs of abuse and neglect.
- Being demanding and destructive.
- Showing excessive fear.
- The need to inflict pain.
The need of deeply hurt children to inflict pain is a perverted and angry attempt to elicit love. Any way of "having it out" with someone is more tolerable than indifference and neglect.
She's a Victim of an Abusive Childhood
Her Name Is Heather
Take a minute to look at the photo above. What do you see? Are there any signs of a happy childhood? You say "she's smiling", but the smile is forced and expected. Look into her eyes, void of all expression, as though she is lost, somewhere in another time. My sister was born an innocent, precious, beautiful, little baby.
This pure little child grew up to become an angry, verbally abusive, confused, woman, who lived with jealousy in her heart.
I tried to protect her during our childhood and failed. I tried again to protect her during our adult life and failed again. I reached out to her for the love I missed so many years ago. Most of the time I felt worse about myself after talking with her.
Yet, my love for her has never diminished. I would do anything in the world to see my sister happy.
I know, with all my heart, one day we will be united, and I will have my sister back once more. We will greet each other, in a perfect place, with supreme joy, surrounded by love.
Parents and caregivers, wake up! The screaming, spankings, punishments, might seem like an instant to you - but to the young victims it will last for years.
Common Signs Of Behavior That May Indicate Child Abuse
A drop in grades and homework
Avoiding family members or strangers
Look for abrupt changes
Also combined with withdrawal
This is a way for neglected children to get attention
Cursing for the child is the sharpest weapen of all.
When a child won't speak
Whe the child doesn not speak theparent has to be with him in an individual rapport, bent with all one's senses to receive the message which the child makes an intense effort to conceal by freezing up.
Summary: Children Are Our Hope For the Future
Each one of us is responsible for the safety and protection of children. Recognizing and being aware of child abuse is a place to start. Child abuse includes physical, emotional, sexual and pure neglect inflicted by a parent or caretaker.
My own abuse was mostly emotional with a little physical thrown in. If I had a choice I would prefer the physical. When a parent verbally terrorizes the child continually, and severely criticizes the child or fails to express any affection or nurturing, they are abusing the child.
As the child grows to adulthood, feelings of shame, guilt, low self-esteem accompany the inner-child for the rest of their life.
For the victim, one of the best ways to thrive, in spite of the damaged esteem, is to carve out a life of service and love for others. The more we give, the more our need for love becomes realized, and we can thrive and become a light for others.
Pay attention and be involved in a child's life. Listen and show interest. My own kindergarten teacher, Miss Butterfield, taught me that I am lovable. She is responsible for my level of self-confidence today. Bless all the teachers who take the time to stand up for the rights of children.
Children are our legacy and hope for the future.
90% of victimization is from a family member.
Do You Know Someone Who Has Survived Child Abuse?
“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.”
― Dave Pelzer, A Child Called "It"
© 2011 Audrey Hunt