Archive for November 28th, 2007

Plant (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Physical child abuse is anything that a person does to a child that involves harming his body. This can be anything from beating a child, breaking his bones, burning his body, or doing anything else to physical harm a child’s body.

Many people believe that physical abuse must leave physical marks on the body, but this is not necessarily true. While many types of physical abuse do leave marks on the body, some do not. For example, smothering a child with a pillow is clearly physical abuse, even though the pillow is unlikely to leave bruises on the child’s face.

Physical abuse is often inflicted as “discipline,” but it is way out of proportion to the child’s “crime.” No childish misbehavior justifies breaking a child’s bones or leaving bruises up and down his back. There is always a better way to handle disciplining a child, even when a child is strong-willed.

Because physical abuse is frequently presented as “discipline,” abused children often wrestle with believing that they are “bad.” If they were only “good enough,” then they would not be suffering the abuse. This line of thinking is actually a coping mechanism because it gives the child the illusion of power: If he is only “good enough,” then he will have the power to stop the abuse.

Unfortunately, the truth is that an abused child cannot be “good enough” to stop the abuse because the abuse is not about his behavior: It is about his abuser’s “need” to offload his self-loathing onto another person. However, to accept this truth is to give in to utter despair, so the continued abuse drives home the lie that the child is “bad.”

Even after the physical wounds heal, the emotional wounds remain open and bleeding. The physically abused child grows into an adult who continues to wrestle with feelings of being “bad.” Abuse survivors often loathe themselves and continue to punish themselves even when their abusers stop.

The way to heal these emotional wounds is through learning to love yourself. If you were physically abused as a child, you were not responsible for your abuse. There is nothing you could have done as a child to justify the way you were treated. You should have been loved for being the precious child you were. You deserve to be loved as an adult, and the key to being loved is in learning how to love yourself.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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