“It won’t always be like this”, she said as she dabbed my swollen left eye with cotton wool soaked in mentholated spirit. ‘Why do we put up with this?’ I wondered.
I wanted to believe her but I couldn’t look past the different colors on her face of brown scars, the bluish hue of healing wound and the red of freshly inflicted injury, I couldn’t pretend not to notice the way she always seemed to be trembling, how she had become so jumpy, how often she broke things because her hands were unsteady.. I winced in pain as she put ice on my trembling lips which now, had a small bleeding gash at the corner, the corner that went up and dimpled when I smiled was now a painful sore. Unable to hold it back any more I screamed. I screamed for the light that had vanished from my mother’s eyes, I screamed for the sound of laughter that was now an echo, I screamed as the voice of curiosity and adventure of life in my head went silent, I screamed to awaken my heart from the dull beat it now preferred.
Hot tears spilled from my eyes now as I felt those same words of my mum at the tip of my tongue as I massaged my little boy’s body with warm water, I let the hot water burn me as a different question played in my mind, ‘how did I get here again’. My heart burned with shame, as my son looked away avoiding my eyes, he was trying to be strong for mummy, he didn’t want me to see the pain in his eyes.
- “Child abuse” refers to a range of maltreatment. In addition to physical harm and sexual abuse, researchers also include serious neglect of a child’s emotional and physical needs and forms of emotional abuse such as incessant berating of a child
- Worse still is the ripple effect abuse has on other generations, I mean the offspring of abused individuals.
According to a survey of related studies by, Joan Kaufman and Edward Zigler, psychologists at Yale, 30 percent is the best estimate of the rate at which abuse of one generation is repeated in the next. That’s right abuse has a ripple effect, it seldom ends with one generation, the abused could become abusers and the ugly cycle continues.
A 1985 study of all 15 adolescents in the United States who were condemned murderers found that 13 had been victims of extreme physical or sexual abuse. In nine cases the abuse was so severe – characterized as ”murderous” by the researchers -that it led to neurological damage.
Similarly, a study of nine women imprisoned for fatal child abuse found that all of them had experienced severe maltreatment themselves.
Some parents rationalize extreme disciplinary measures as normal because they were raised by abusive parents.
- In most parts of the world where the things or actions that constitute abuse are not clearly defined, you will find that a person’s reaction to abuse is numb, sometimes they don’t know that they have been abused or they believe that the way they are treated is justified.
Here’s a cut out from an interview experience with a victim of abuse.
”When you ask them if they were ever abused, they tell you, ‘No,’ ” Dr. Krugman said.
”But if you ask them to describe what would happen if they broke a rule, they’ll say something like,
‘I was locked in a closet for a day, then beaten with a belt until I was black and blue.’
Then you ask them, was that abuse? And their answer is, ‘No, I was a bad kid and my parents had to beat me to make me turn out okay.’ ”
- There’s help for victims of abuse, the trauma of any kind of abuse is real and has eaten deep into the personalities of many victims such that they feel that they have nothing more to give except that which they were given. Some of them have a distorted idea of love and parenting and it reflects in the way they behave, their choices and the company they keep.
In helping a child recover from abuse, ”you need to counteract the child’s expectations that adults will be deeply uncaring,” explained Martha Erickson, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota.
The damage shows up in their intimate relationships: they’re waiting to get hit or used again.” The Question of Insight.
- Note: A specific type of abuse is seldom repeated by the abused
The Minnesota researchers report that among those abused children who go on to become abusing parents, there is little repetition of a specific type of abuse.
For instance, of 13 women who had been sexually abused, six were physically abusing their children; of 47 who had been physically abused, 8 were physical abusers by the time their children reached six years, while 8 neglected their children, and 6 had homes where children were being sexually abused, often by a boyfriend of the mother.
- What can we do differently to curb the menace of abuse in our society?
We need to be enlightened on the actions and/or in;actions that constitute abuse.
Effective corporate bodies and law enforcement be set up to take up, investigate cases of abuse and to mete out appropriate disciplinary actions on the perpetrators.
Also, victims should be encouraged to get help in order to quell the trans-generational effects of abuse and enable them to lead normal lives free from the trauma of their experiences.
So tell me, how is abuse treated in your environment, are there organized systems and institutions set in place to take care of the abused and combat the ripple effect of abuse in our environment ?