Jason L Roberts Mineral Wells, WV English 101 9/26/2012 Understanding and Overcoming Child Abuse Child abuse is a very sensitive subject for many people. In fact, even as people begin to read this now they are probably feeling a little uneasy. That is understandable for this is comparable to a plague on the human race, a disease that knows no bounds. Nobody really wants to or enjoys talking about the subject, but it does need to be discussed. Due to the high ratio of people (1 in 5) who have claimed to have been assaulted in some form or another in their childhood, chances are high that someone you know has been a victim.
I’m not trying to counsel anyone per se, for I am no licensed psychologist or anything close, but rather inform people on the issue, from my experience as a victim myself and the research I’ve conducted. I also endeavor to be forthcoming with any advice I can bestow upon readers in the process and hope that it may help the reader or someone they know that can make positive use of it. If you haven’t been deflected by the gravity of the topic yet, by all means, please read on.
What child abuse is defined as, its general history, and the many different forms it may take. Child Abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child or children1. Tragically, it is safe to say that abuse like we are familiar with today has been taking place in some form or another ever since the beginning of human existence. We are still attempting to fully understand the reasoning behind these vile deeds, but even with a clear explanation we would be hard-pressed to accept it. It’s just not something we can fully wrap our minds around.
The perpetrators usually don’t have an explanation for their actions either, other than often they too were a victim. This is heavily researched data that cannot be denied. The cold hard truth of how prevalent abuse is in today’s society is clearly evident. Child abuse reporting and tracking has vastly improved over the years, so we can get some more accurate estimates on the status of the problem. Public awareness and willingness to intervene and stop or at least report abuse is increasing every year. It’s ridiculous that it has taken this long but better late than never.
These levels of reporting have increased over 41% from 1988 to 1997 alone (Wang). The ratio of victims has also declined. In 1997 forty-seven children in 1000 were documented victims of maltreatment, the total of reported children being 1,054,000, according to the CPS (Child Protective Services agencies) (Wang 3-5). That number has now changed to 9. 2 in 1000 for unique victims Page 1 of 7 as of 2010; with an estimated 754,000 duplicate and 695,000 unique children total were victims of maltreatment (Bureau).
No doubt this coincides with increasingly higher reporting rates and awareness, on a federal and state level more and improved programs are in place to help curb the trend. In 1996 there were more than three children that died each day due to child abuse or neglect, with 1,185 recorded total. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that for each year between 2000 and 2005, “female parents acting alone” were most likely to be perpetrators of child abuse at around 40% (See figure 3-5 to left. ) (Children’s Bureau 40-41).
Perhaps this is linked to the high number of single mothers in society? See also from the figure on the left that these heinous crimes are more often than not performed by family members close to the child. Another important demographic to look at is the age groups and which ages are more likely to be targeted the most (See figure 3-4 below. ) (Bureau 19-20). It appears the trend is that abuse is more prevalent in younger children and diminishes as the ages increase; their self-awareness and understanding of right and wrong matures. The risk for the perpetrator increases.
Just remember, we have no way of knowing the exact number of children who are abused if they aren’t reported, so these numbers could be drastically lower than the actual amounts. Abuse can come in many different forms, some of which are less obvious than others. Some of the most harmful and longest lasting can be very subtle and non-intentional. Parenting requires an enormous amount of patience, understanding, empathy, and caring. Some adults can’t handle the stress that comes with parenting, resulting in one of the causes of neglect, which represents the largest accountable form of abuse.
We have all heard the horrible stories of child abandonment on the news at least once or twice, usually where a parent has left their young child in the automobile when going into a store, exposing the fragile baby or toddler to extreme temperature build-ups and other obvious dangers. Others leave a young child at home alone and convince themselves their child will be fine; what is the worst that can happen in their crib. When asked why the child was left behind, the reasoning might be to avoid the embarrassment of a crying baby, fear of an unruly child making a scene, or no babysitter was available.
No excuse is a good enough reason. Other Page 2 of 7 people might be home with their child and effectively abandon them by becoming too engrossed in watching television, sleeping all day through a drug induced haze, or just zoning them out entirely, forgetting to tend to them, letting them sit in their soiled diaper for extended periods of time or worse. These problems can be taking place over time or dire enough in one situation when people fail to provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter for their offspring, resulting in death from starvation, dehydration and hypothermia.
These are only some of the forms of neglect, which is considered the most common form of abuse at 78. 3% (Bureau). There is always a fine line between discipline and abuse. The second most prevalent form of abuse is physical at 17. 6% (Bureau). Sometimes called “Tough Love”, parents who believe they are helping their children are in fact harming them. Harsh discipline and corporal punishment are often used by many families across the country with the mentality “That’s the way I was raised and I turned out alright. ” not conscious of the immediate and long-term damage they are inflicting on their children.
This can lead to a combination of mental and physical abuse. Inadvertently, this often encourages resentment and malice towards parents, siblings, and others where they start to believe it is okay to treat other people this same way. A more appropriate and effective route experts say to take would be to make yourself a friend to these children, get down on their level, eye-to-eye, be square with them and explain their actions, what is expected of them, the consequences of failure to comply, and how it affects you and others that care about them in a way they can comprehend (KeepKidsHealthy. om). Many activist groups are trying to reform how we determine what is acceptable and where the line needs to be drawn in terms of physical discipline and abuse. It is hard to say whether this will have a positive effect or will end up letting youth feel like they can walk all over adults with no repercussions, as is the case with many families already. Along the same lines as earlier, if all else fails one universal law holds true, in life we respect physical pain and our aversion to it, just not to be used in excess.
An all too familiar negative use of physical aggression for instance is an alcoholic or any adult with anger management issues taking out their personal aggression on a child for pleasure. These adults often do not know how to confront their feelings or express them in any other way than physical, and children are used as an outlet when unfortunately found conveniently in close proximity. These attacks are as basic as a slap to the back of the head, a punch or strikes to the body and face, to being abused with an inanimate object.
This can easily lead to permanent damage and broken bones. I’ve personally heard stories of shock collars being placed around a child’s neck to thwart them from crying. It is documented that people who abuse their spouse are more susceptible to abusing their children as well. Also, children who were born from an unplanned pregnancy are at higher risk to be maltreated. Simple anger management classes that get to the root of the problem for the adult can go a long way in preventing this form of abuse. Page 3 of 7 Sexual abuse is a whole other animal by itself.
I consider this to be the worst form of child abuse an individual can endure. Now making up 9. 2% of all recorded forms of abuse, it has definitely dropped in prevalence (Bureau). In 1993 it was documented that 150,000 confirmed cases of child sexual abuse were reported to child welfare authorities (David Finkelhor). David Finkelhor, Ph. D. also wrote that according to his research, strong evidence exists that 20% of American women and 5-10% of American men have endured some form of sexual abuse. Here again is the problem with sexual abuse being that most people are too ashamed to report it.
So the numbered is skewered as I said before. I have learned however that while it may be very hard to face this traumatic time in your life head on, it is incredibly rewarding and freeing to bring it out into the open and deal with it. While I was a youth in a Juvenile Detention Center, I had a great counselor that helped me confront my past and talk about it. Nobody before then had any idea of the trauma I had been put through and therefor nobody could help me overcome it, not even my mother, who knew only about the physical abuse from my before then step-father.
Here is a list of effects caused by sexual abuse: guilt and self-blame, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, fear of things associated with the abuse (including objects, smells, places, doctor’s visits, etc. ), self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, addiction, self-injury, suicidal ideation, somatic complaints, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, other mental illnesses (including borderline personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder, propensity to re-victimization in adulthood, bulimia nervosa, physical injury to the child, among other problems. ) (David Finkelhor).
I was able to get myself past most of the problems associated with child abuse, but some will be a part of me forever and I’ve accepted that. Keep your mind set on the future, don’t dwell on the past, face it, admit it, and accept it. It’s okay to get help. It’s a very arduous journey to undertake even with help, let alone by yourself to seek any kind of happiness if you have been through any kind of abuse. To put things in perspective, I’m not ashamed to admit that I was sexually molested by an uncle, two cousins; one male of late adolescents, and one adult female, three people in total at around age 3-6.
It is known that one person abused as a child is at higher risk to abuse another child. It should be no surprise to know that the male cousin mentioned is son to the uncle who molested me. For whatever reason, sexual abuse is a perpetual cycle until one victim finally decides it ends with them, that there will be no more abuse. That was the vow I made and I can’t for the life of me understand why everyone does not make this same stand. I’ve managed to block out much of what happened to me as a child, it’s just a self-defense mechanism I suppose. I don’t think about it anymore but I will never forget it.
Around this same time my mother was regularly assaulted by my father, mostly behind closed doors, though luckily he never laid a hand on my brother or me. He was an ex-Marine sharp-shooter drill instructor and an alcoholic. Later on in life around ages 8-10, I was beat on by my step-father for two or three years with heavy amounts of mental abuse and neglect as well until finally my Page 4 of 7 mother thankfully chose me and my brother over him. I lashed out in the 4th and 5th grades because of my abuse, throwing stuff, refusing to do my schoolwork, etc.
That landed me in a special school where they send juvenile delinquents, here I was exposed to many students that I believe to this day were far more problematic than I was, it was a scary place at the time and a bad influence. Later in high-school I was picked on and beat up by other students for being shy and cowardly. They had no better reason than that I didn’t defend myself and they could easily have their way. I skipped school so much to avoid the bullying that I was punished yet some more and sent to the aforementioned Juvenile Detention Center for 6 months in the 10th grade.
Upon returning I was an entirely new person. No longer was I frail and easy pickings for bullies. Now I fought back, and to my surprise at the time I easily won. It’s true what they say. All you have to do is stand up for yourself just once and prevent it from being easy. They will leave you alone if they have to work for it or they risk injury to themselves. Then you see that they are truly the cowards hiding under the mask they wear to put on a tough demeanor. Some damage was already done and eventually I dropped out of high-school and worked at various jobs most of my adult life until last year.
Constantly I would move around, South Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, always restless, not knowing what to do with myself. I was always procrastinating and feeling like a failure, in and out of depression in phases of my life. Finally I decided I needed help again, I needed a nudge. I thought anti-depressants would help me. Turns out they made things worse. When I no longer had control over my emotions or lack thereof, bad things happened. I got in a bar fight in Columbus, OH two weeks after I began taking Seroquel and Celexa. He was a big guy but I broke his nose and put him in the hospital.
The fight was over a girl and it could have easily been avoided. I served a month in Franklin County Jail in Columbus, OH. The Judge required me to complete 80 hours of community service, pay $1000 in restitution, mental health counseling and anger management, which I did even though the psychiatrist reported to the judge I didn’t need any of those things that I was in great mental condition and not violent in any way. That ended up costing me another 1000+. I’m serving 2 years of probation, which I’m soon to be relieved from a year early due to good behavior.
I was just not myself at all when on the medication, my friends told me, and they said I was a complete anti-social maniac. After research I found that there were other cases of these two drugs in combination having similarly negative side effects as I experienced. I have learned from this and it is another setback the makes me stronger I believe, even though it kept me from joining the Air-Force with my best friend as I had planned. I decided to not let it stop me or slow me down any further in changing my life around. I completed some classes to get me ready for the G.
E. D. test. I finally took the test in October 2011. I passed with a score of 3450 of 4000 (You only need 2500 to pass. ), earning distinguished recognition for exemplary performance attaining a score of 3000+. I finally did it after 10 years, I was so filled with pride and no longer had to feel ashamed that I never graduated high school. I made immediate plans to attend college at West Virginia University at Parkersburg (WVUP) for Computer Information Technology, C. I. T. Here I am today, working full-time as an assistant manager and attending college full-time.
My brother and I are the only ones in our entire family to ever attend college. I’m definitely not here to brag, Page 5 of 7 what I am trying to convey here is that even if you have been through terrible abuse you can overcome it. Sure I had thoughts of suicide at one point or another when depressed but I knew I could conquer those feelings of hopelessness. It’s mind over emotions; overcome it by just convincing yourself you’re powerful enough and worth it. Always try to better yourself. If you need something done, learn to do it yourself rather than paying someone else to do it for you, if something is broke, learn to fix it.
I get great satisfaction and enjoyment out of being totally selfreliant and independent. People can turn to you when they need help, and being able to offer your assistance and expertise to others makes you feel happily accomplished. The internet is a wonderful tool and I advise everyone to use it for the many benefits it offers. You have a vast array of knowledge at your fingertips. Wouldn’t it feel good to be able to fix your own car, no matter what the problem is, to diagnose it and repair it? Fix your own LCD TV or computer? Cook delicious meals at your leisure?
Build a storage building, or a motorized bicycle that gets 150mpg and goes 30mph, or even a house? Then be able to do all the repairs and remodeling of said house, electrical, plumbing, carpentry? The money you would save from the knowledge you have gained would be priceless. While doing these things not only keeps your mind busy and saves you money, it also helps with overcoming the effects of child abuse. Now that you know the majority of the issues I’ve been through I say to people this: If I can do it, you can too; you just have to believe in yourself and have a deep desire with a spark of inspiration.
As you can see, this still is, and most likely will for a long time continue to remain a real problem that we need to resolve the best we can at every opportunity. Alas, we have to work with what little understanding we’ve got. What I believe we can depend on as reliable information, if anything, is that the abuse is happening far less often the further we move into the future. I’m sure you will agree that it is fantastic news and precisely the direction we want to be heading. I also hope my personal story here has helped you realize that it is possible for victims of this agony to rise up and take hold of their life.
Some people have been through less trauma and committed suicide rather than try to face it. I’m living proof it doesn’t have to be that way. Try to keep an ever vigilant eye and ear out for signs of abuse and report it to your local authorities. You could save a young persons life or at the very least make a huge improvement on their conditions, and that is a righteous and just thing to accomplish for everyone involved. Page 6 of 7 Works Cited Bureau, Children’s. “Child Maltreatment. ” (2010) 18-24, Print. Children’s Bureau, U. S.
Department of Health & Human Services. Victims by Perpetrator Relationship, 2000-2005. 2000-2005. 16 September 2012 35-60, Print. KeepKidsHealthy. com. Discipline Guide for Children. 2012. 16 September 2012 Internet. Publishers, HarperCollins. Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. 1991: Internet. Wang, C. T. and Daro, D. Current Trends in Child Abuse Reporting and Fatalities: The Results of the 1997 Annual Fifty State Survey. Chicago, IL: National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. , (1998): 3-20, Print. Page 7 of 7