I have been hearing a lot about child abuse this week. Between clients, strangers, and people in the news, this is becoming a very hot topic and it feels as though people are more ready to speak up about it than ever before.
Many decades ago, when you heard about parents abusing their children, you also heard that it was connected to an alcoholic parent. Later on, you heard that it was the fault of alcoholism and drug addiction. Now we have to look at the very real possibility that it has more to do with the parent having a mean streak and that alcohol and drugs are only the excuses that are given for this type of abhorrent behavior.
It doesn’t matter why the parent is abusive; it only matters that this kind of treatment is destroying their children’s lives.
Many people who have been the victim of child abuse can’t make sense of it so they go into the fields of psychology and psychiatry to try to figure out why it happened and whether they were to blame. They become counselors and therapists and hope that in counseling others, they can understand their parents and themselves.
The sad part about all this is that most of them feel and act like victims their entire life, afraid of confrontation, and gravitating toward unhealthy relationships.
Even knowing that they weren’t to blame for the persecution they suffered as children, doesn’t seem to make any difference in how they react to their partner or to difficult situations. Most of them are made to feel guilty for their role in their own mistreatment and they grow up not trusting anyone. And who can blame them?
If no one comes to your rescue as you are being battered, you might think that you deserved the beatings. But more important is the feeling that you are alone in the world and you can’t depend on anyone to help you. And if you feel that no one will come to your assistance, you don’t ask anyone to help you. This kind of isolation sets you apart from other people and inhibits intimacy in your deepest relationships.
It’s time to take child abuse out of the closet and deal with it as a societal issue, not as an isolated incident. It’s time to give real help to its victims, not just lip service.