Every day I read another piece of news about the emotional and physical abuse of children. It makes me sick to think of what is happening to these poor little innocent souls under our watch. How can we stop the cycle of child abuse?
To think that the innocent and carefree days of their childhood have been snatched away and replaced with fear, anxiety and violence.
I believe this is one of the greatest tragedies in the world today.
Unfortunately a lot of these kids will grow up to feed the ongoing problems of drug addiction, homelessness, alcohol abuse, violence and aggression that we struggle to deal with in today’s society.
It also saddens me greatly to think that the majority of these kids will end up being the next generation of abusers and with their kids, the cycle will start again.
How can we put a stop to this horrendous cycle of violence and abuse?
What is especially concerning is that in most cases the perpetrators of child abuse are also the victims. They do not even realize they are doing anything wrong and as far as they are concerned the abuse of a child is proper and normal.
While one child may think it normal to be comforted when they cry out in the night, another reality is to be screamed at, physically hit or psychologically tortured for the same behaviour. What does that teach them?
Just as a child is taught to eat, walk or talk, these children have been taught to deal with difficult feelings and aggressive impulses by using violence and intimidation in all of its ugly forms. In fact some kids are even taught that love is expressed using violence as that is all they have experienced.
I’ll give you a very sad example from a social worker friend of mine. The names have been changed to protect the identity of the people involved. The story however is true and is a stark reminder to us all as to the cyclical nature of domestic abuse.
John and Betty (not their real names) met in high school and fell madly in love with one another. From day one they only had eyes for each other and no one was surprised when John popped the question and they were married at a relatively young age.
The problems arose when they started trying to have a family. They had no trouble falling pregnant but Betty could not seem to keep a baby and had one miscarriage after another.
During a routine examination after miscarriage number five (yes, number five) a local nurse had noticed bruising around Betty’s body. She referred the matter to the relevant authorities and both John and Betty were sent to counseling where they met my social worker friend.
In the course of counseling John admitted to bashing his wife on a regular basis. He was careful always to hit her in the stomach or back so the bruises would not show and she would not be embarrassed in public. He had watched his father do exactly the same to his mother.
Betty admitted to being bashed. When asked why she didn’t report the incidents she replied that there was nothing to report. Her father had done the same to her mother and as far as she was concerned it was all part of a normal marriage and it was nobody’s business but their own.
They both openly confessed to still being madly in love and appeared to be quite happy in their relationship. They had no idea that what they were doing was considered dysfunctional and were quite horrified at the suggestion that they were in an abusive relationship.
“Doesn’t abuse happen when two people hate each other?” they asked.
The penny really dropped when the councilor told them that the five miscarriages were most likely the result of the abdominal punching. In other words John was responsible for the deaths of their unborn babies.
It was at this point they both broke down uncontrollably. They desperately wanted a family and could not believe that what they thought was normal marital behaviour was actually domestic violence and unborn child abuse causing death.
Thankfully after this revelation they agreed to intensive counseling to stop this abnormal behaviour and have since been able to remove this abuse from their marriage. Under the watchful eyes of caseworkers Betty is now seven months pregnant and both mum and baby are doing well.
Both John and Betty came from abusive households where their fathers would regularly abuse alcohol and beat their mothers, sometimes even to the point of hospitalization. The children too would receive serious beatings for what most people would call minor transgressions.
That was a normal part of life for them and they both learnt how to behave in a marriage and family situation from the actions of their parents. How could they be expected to know any different?
Until we teach the perpetrators of child abuse that their actions are wrong then how can we ever stop the cycle of abuse that occurs in our society?
Rather than accusing ,blaming and punishing we maybe need to understand, nurture and teach so that these misguided, abused, abusers might be more likely to reach out for help without being persecuted and demonized.
I am not excusing the behaviour – Abuse towards anyone, especially innocent children makes me sick to the stomach and I certainly don’t pretend to have the answers to what is always an extremely complicated and confronting problem.
Additionally I am not talking about going soft on the perpetrators – the pain, suffering and humiliation they have caused to their victims is beyond my imagination.
I just want to try to help stop this cycle and the way we deal with it as a society today does not seem to be working. There appears to be more abuse than ever before.
Punishment and blame only seems to create broken homes, resentment and ultimately displaced and broken children. Shouldn’t we be fostering growth, learning, forgiveness and the stability of the family unit?
We can’t all get our own childhood back but with a different approach maybe we can stop this cycle of abuse and give kids of the next generation the carefree childhood that everyone deserves.
If anyone has any ideas on how our community can promote this cause then please contact me.