Category Archives: Child Abuse

When All Else Is Lost, The Future Still Remains

I saw this quote the other day, by Cristian Nestell Bovee, on a LinkedIn status, and I thought to myself, what a perfect way to think about overcoming childhood abuse.

There are many who would tell us that the pain of child abuse is so awful that it’s worse than death. That victims of horrific abuse would almost be better off dead. I’ve never been an advocate of that point of view, for this very reason.

As long as you are alive, there is hope. Hope in a better tomorrow, hope for healing, hope for happiness. I don’t care how horrific the abuse was, if you’re alive today, there is hope, because the future hasn’t been written yet, it is up to you.

Going Beyond Prosecution

I found myself nodding along as I read a recap of a presentation given by Connilee Christie, who works with children who report being sexually abused. Especially, this part:

Success often is measured on prosecutions, she said. In part, she said, because it is easily measured.

But that is not how the Children’s Advocacy Center in St. Louis measures it. The center abides by what is called the “Child First Doctrine,” which states:

“The child is our first priority. Not the needs of the family. Not the child’s ‘story.’ Not the evidence. Not the needs of the courts. Not the needs of police, child protection, attorneys, etc.”

“Sometimes that means no prosecution,” she said.

I’ve written before about the difference between “justice” and healing. Just because your abuser didn’t go to jail, or didn’t go to jail for as long as you thought they should, has no bearing on your ability to heal. I see the same sort of thought pattern in what they are doing for children in St. Louis. Yes, it would be wonderful if justice could be served in every case, but that’s never going to happen. We can do as much as we can to try and carry out justice in these cases, but getting a guilty verdict is dependent on so many things that are out of our control, as survivors, or those who wish to help them. It depends on being able to take the stand, having others do the same, having a jury believe you versus the person you are accusing, etc.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t pursue justice, but that can’t be the only goal, and the only definition of success. Success, when dealing with victims of sexual abuse is in getting them the help they need, keeping them safe, and getting them on the path to healing as soon as they are able. The best part, is that we can do that without waiting to see what the criminal justice system comes up with, and we can do it regardless of the results.

A survivor overcoming their childhood and learning to life a full life is just as much of a success as seeing their abuser convicted. But the two are not the same thing. Healing can happen regardless.

Avoidance Does Not Help

Given the recent post I made about the power of shame to lead people to all sorts of behavioral problems, I wasn’t at all surprised to find a recent study that claims that kids who talk about their abuse and neglect are less likely to suffer from PTSD.

A Penn State researcher finds an interesting differential among kids who developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of child abuse, and those who did not.

Chad Shenk, Ph.D., and his research team found that adolescent girls who experienced maltreatment in the past year and were willing to talk about their painful experiences, their thoughts and emotions, were less likely to have PTSD symptoms one year later.

So that tactic of not talking about and telling kids to put it behind them and move forward and forget it? Yeah, not so good.


Challenging Thoughts on Compassion For Offenders

Over on Theo Fleury’s website, there is a guest post today by Bob Spensley about having compassion for offenders, whether they be criminals, political oppresors, kidnappers or sexual predator.

Granted, this is not the most popular way to approach those who commit these acts, but I think Bob makes one good point, whether you agree with the rest of his theory or not.

If you are not moving towards compassion, the opposite and some would say more naturally reactive direction would be to feel hatred. What does hatred serve? If, like physical pain felt by nerve endings, it is part of a defense mechanism to let your brain/heart know to change your current situation- then good. Anger would then be useful to keep you safer, and it is good to listen to it. If you’re already in a safe-enough place and the trauma is not in danger of being repeated, however, then the hatred/anger will only serve to make yourself ill.

Reminder- It is not always the trauma event itself that makes you the most hurt. It’s often how people (including yourself) respond to the abuse that contributes to your difficulty (or relative ease) with your personal healing.

In a nutshell, how does feeling compassion for your offender help you to feel better? Once you see it’s the other’s issues and pain, it encourages the thought that the abuse was not your fault and you instantly have more energy to forgive and love yourself. And that’s really the goal in healing. The bonus is that if your intention for them to feel less pain comes to be, they’d be less likely to hurt another. Continue reading

The Power of Shame

I caught a mention of a TED talk relating to shame and even though the speaker, Brene Brown, wasn’t specifically talking about survivors, I think there’s a lot of information that applies to survivors.

Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior. Brené Brown, whose earlier talk on vulnerability became a viral hit, explores what can happen when people confront their shame head-on. Her own humor, humanity and vulnerability shine through every word.

As a survivor, that certainly rings true for me. Survivors hang on to a lot of shame about what happened to us, and that shame colors every aspect of life to some degree or other. For me, healing is about reaching the point where I’m not ashamed of what happened, because it wasn’t my fault. There’s real power in not hiding the secrets any more.

You can go and check out this talk over on the TED website.

Unwanted Touch

On a recent Saturday afternoon, my wife and I went for a country drive to one of the cute small towns in our area of the country. We stopped in a little coffee shop, and were greeted warmly by the elderly mother of the shop’s owner.

Unfortunately, this woman, while very sweet, may be dealing with some form of dementia, and really did not understand boundaries at all. After greeting us both and engaging us in conversation, she proceeded to rub my wife’s back, reaching around her to hold her in place while doing so. It was uncomfortable for everyone.

It only lasted a minute, by it could tell immediately that my wife was, in a minor way, traumatized by it. She was jumpy, and not from the coffee. She couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and the next day at church, she flinched when a person she actually knows quite well just touched her arm.

So what does this have to do with child abuse survivors?

Continue reading

Looking Up to People With Flawed Characters

Joe Navarro, in his Spycatcher blog, asks an important question about all the Woody Allen talk. Can we really separate someone’s art, or talent, from their character. Certainly, it seems like we go to great pains to do that, but should we?

Consider this section of Joe’s article:

The second concern that has not been talked about in the articles noted above is this. Is the accused or alleged perpetrator flawed of character? In other words, is this a person who has demonstrated a willingness to bend rules, push boundaries, break laws, do immoral or unethical acts?

When we allow someone to bend rules, and break boundaries because, as one person quoted in the article says, “it’s essential to separate the art from the artist not only for philosophical reasons but also for practical ones.” She further added, “…if we delved into the private lives of every single artist…we’d find plenty not to like… It’s possible we’d never see a movie, look at a work of art, or read a book again.” all we are really doing is sending the message that it’s ok for the “talented” to do whatever they want. They’re special, and they produce art, or athletic achievement that somehow makes up for whatever they may be doing to innocent children.

I don’t buy it. Continue reading