Child Abuse and Its Results in Today's Society

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Recently I’ve finished a big project. It included transcribing (i.e., converting from audio to text) over seventy half-hour long interviews with 7–12-year-old Lithuanian children about their relationships with their family members and the children's various life experiences, mostly their attachment to their parents and potential abuse they are – or were – suffering. A small minority of these children were from foster homes, where the situation is, of course, more complex. But the majority were from "normal" families. Because the client who asked me to do these transcriptions asked me to keep them private, I won’t be talking about any specific examples in detail; however I’d like to write a quick overview. It won’t be a "scientific study." These are just my overall thoughts and impressions. So, here we go.

These interviews validated my own estimation about the degree of, and ignorance about, child abuse in today's society. As I’ve mentioned in my previous articles, I see children being abused, and adults who show evidence of having been abused (i.e., grown-wounded children, or broken adults), everywhere and all the time. Since I’ve worked on myself a lot and I have experience working with people, I’m more understanding and empathetic towards children and their needs than most people. Now, my definition of abuse might be a little bit different than most people’s. I define it is as follows: When a child’s true self suffers harm – be it physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional – the child is being abused. If one applies this definition logically and consistently, one can see child abuse – or its results – everywhere. But even if we go with a more conventional understanding (physical force, sexual abuse, extreme neglect, abandonment, etc.), child abuse and its consequences are all around us.

The children in these interviews were (and probably most of them still are) abused in various different and common ways. These are my thoughts on what was reported...

– Yelling was very common, almost universal. Almost all children reported that their parents yell (or have yelled) at them when the children do something their parents don’t like. Even when the child is hurt, sometimes he or she receives scolding instead of empathy.

Neglect was pretty much universal. All of these children didn’t get enough attention and care, and often were just plainly neglected or even abandoned.

Beatings, or being forcefully manhandled in other ways, was common. A lot of children reported beatings, sometimes using learned euphemisms or minimization tactics.

Cognitive dissonance was common. "My mother or father has beaten me," and later: "No, nobody much older than me has ever physically hurt me."

Confusion in the children about why they are being punished was common. A lot of children didn't know why, in specific situations, they were punished.

Stockholm syndrome was very common, almost universal. "I deserved the punishment. My parents [and/or other authority figures] were right. I was bad. They punished me for my own good."

Amnesia or fear of talking about painful experiences was common. "I don’t remember." Or, "I don’t want to talk about this."

Laughing at pain was somewhat common. Some children, while talking about their or other people’s painful experiences, were laughing. Personally, I see this very often. It's either an emotional disconnect, a lack of empathy, or a defense mechanism that potentially protects from an unemphatetic interviewer.

Inability to think rationally and express oneself properly was pretty much universal.

Poor character development was pretty much universal.

Stunted emotional growth and lack of awareness was universal. Almost all children were severely broken, traumatized and dissociated from their emotions, needs, talents, and experiences.

False understanding of a healthy parent-child relationship was universal. For example, "My relationship with my mother or father is good when she or he buys me stuff, or when I obey." Also, it was universally implied that children have to be obedient and can’t question parents’ authority. Obedience to parents’ will is rewarded, while disobeying parents is punished. (The carrot-and-stick approach is ineffective and harmful in various ways.)

False understanding of morality was universal. Obedience to authority (to parents, teachers, elders, etc.) is labeled as "good behavior." Disobedience is "bad behavior." Often children openly labeled themselves as "good" or "bad" based on that.

Extremely stressful school life was pretty much universal. One of the biggest stress-producing factors for children is school. A lot of very painful experiences and punishments – bullying, incompetent and abusive teachers, tiredness from lack of rest and homework, huge pressure from parents and teachers to do well (i.e., to be perfect), etc. – were reported almost universally. School is very traumatic and cripples a child’s natural development in myriad different ways.

It was amongst these children to have huge amounts of unprocessed trauma. This applies to children and – by a logical extension – to their parents as well.

Concluding Thoughts

A very large number of people have suffered severe or significant trauma in their childhood. Working on this project helped me understand this even better. It also helped me to work on myself, because I've remembered and analyzed specific events from my own life. Children who were interviewed were as most people I've met or known: very traumatized, emotionally crippled, dissociated, scared, lonely, and confused... Traumatized children grow up and have their own children, and they traumatize them to the degree that they haven't processed their own ancient traumas. The cycle continues...

(Bear in mind that this is self-reporting. And the problem with self-reporting is that the information is often skewed, because abuse, especially child abuse, is often underreported or minimized.)

Since general understanding of the significance and degree of child abuse and its results in today’s society is pretty low, I'd like to raise more awareness for mental health and child abuse. I plan on talking more about this in general, and also about specific situations I have witnessed, experienced, or know of; I plan to analyze and give my arguments about why abuse is harmful to the child, and what potential effects it can have in the future.

Have an aware-full day,
Darius


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8 comments

  1. Hi Darius
    This is a sad account of the experience of most children. Depressions, anxiety and a whole host of other mental health issues are usually rooted in childhood trauma. The way that children are treated and regarded by their parents is the way that those children will grow up to regard themselves. When I work with adults, I always find the childhood beliefs (resulting from mistreatment) are the biggest stick points that stand in the way of healthy self esteem and true freedom/joy in life.

    This is a great article and a very necessary one. These facts are empowering for adults who are stuck feeling alone and confused about how they got the way they got and why they feel the way they feel.

    Hugs, Darlene

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  2. This is an excellent article Darius! I can relate to most of these outcomes.

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  3. Great article.

    Do you plan to do a more scientific analysis or writing on these interviews?

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  4. Have you observed any differences between the abuses suffered by boys vs. girls?

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  5. This is a very interesting project. I also see this type of abuse (and I also use a broader definition) everywhere, and it is so sad, such a waste of human potential to teach children these sick messages about themselves and the world through beatings, emotional abuse, authoritarian schooling...it takes so much time and effort to come out of that.

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  6. Darlene, yes, that's my understanding and experience too. And thank you for your support!

    Jason, in this project I was only transcribing the interviews, and the client asked me to keep these private, so I'm trying to be sensitive to that and write only about my thoughts and logical conclusions, without getting into numbers or "more scientific" stuff. Although, as I've mentioned in the last paragraph, I'll probably talk more about some specific examples or common situations of child abuse in the near future.

    Anonymous, not really. And by that I mean I haven't analyzed it from this perspective. But thinking about it now, I remember boys getting hit, I remember girls getting hit, I remember boys getting yelled at; I remember girls getting yelled at too; I remember girls expected to be "nice", I remember the same thing about boys too. Although it seemed to me that girls are slightly more obedient (therefore probably abused in milder forms) and more expressive of their emotions, they're also raised up more beauty- and art-oriented. While boys are raised up more physical strength- and sports-oriented. Again, probably no surprise here. Both genders are expected to do well in school, to help their parents, to meet their needs and to be obedient.

    And to my knowledge, statistically boys/men commit suicide 4 times as often as do girls/women; and women abuse children more often than men. And men are more dehumanized than women. So, you can make some conclusions about child abuse (boys vs. girls) based only on those facts.

    proudlysensitive, yes, it's very sad. In those interviews I noticed some examples of extremely talented children. For example, one boy was doing some advanced technical-electronic stuff back when he was 6. But he said that his parents don't support this interest of his - he sounded unhappy, lonely, smart, and in pain. So sad. And yes, it takes so much effort afterwards to heal from all of this.

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  7. this is a great article, Darius. very important and valuable. thanks for writing it. daniel

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  8. What you can recommend to prevent or to reduce abuse?

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