I am on several list serves for various aspects of abuse, foster care and adoption. Something that was written on an abuse survivors list really caught my attention. I have permission from the author to publish it here.
This is what was written:
“Rape” is an acute event—but to be raped, and then ignored is far worse. How different would any of our lives have been, had, after the first incident, the non-abusing adults in our lives (whoever they might be–mothers, aunts, teachers..) put themselves in front of us and protected us and believed us and never permitted it to happen again? What if they had held us and protected us and got us help, and talked to us and listened to us and respected us?advertisement
All the collateral damage of the acute event stems from neglect. Loneliness, isolation, feeling like a freak, feeling soiled and dirty, feeling like a bad mom – like you’re not worthy to be a mom; having no boundaries–ALL of that comes from neglect.
I was blown away by the author’s honesty and insight. Although the abuse in this case was childhood rape, the description fits every aspect of childhood abuse. Whether it was physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, the feelings and the after effects are the same.
While we, as foster/adoptive parents do these things for our kids when they join our homes, it doesn’t erase the feelings of anger or worthlessness that exist because of the initial “event’.
If a child has been abused, and then no one did anything to help that child, what message does that send? Does it tell the child that they are precious and important, or that they are dirty and should be embarrassed? I don’t know where the statistic comes from, but in many seminars I have heard that it takes 7 positives to erase one negative. If a child spent five years being abused and neglected, does that mean it then takes 35 years to undo the damage? What if the abuse has happened several times a day over each of those five years? How many years will it take then?
The other thing that jumps out at me from those two paragraphs is this:
What if they had held us and protected us and got us help, and talked to us and listened to us and respected us?
The word respect is the flashing neon sign for me. We don’t think of protecting children as respecting them. However, if we help a friend who is in an abusive relationship, one of the things that we would say is that she needs to respect herself. Why is it any different with children? Do we not need to respect children? Do we not need to teach children to respect themselves?
I don’t know if you’ll feel these two paragraphs are as powerful as I did, but hopefully it will impact someone who works with traumatized children.