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Archive for the ‘Physical Abuse’ Category

Reading through the comments on my blog entry entitled Don’t Tell Me How I Feel!! got me thinking about the first person in my life who routinely disregarded how I felt – my mother/abuser. I wrote about some of these experiences here. There’s more on this topic that I have not shared yet.

My mother used to laugh when my sister or I got hurt. We learned at a young age that our mother was not the “go to” person if we got hurt. She slammed my hands in the car door so many times that I lost count. I actually believed this was simply “normal” because it happened so often and because my mother did not seem particularly concerned about it. My son is 10 years old with attention issues, and I have somehow managed not to do that to him one time. That’s what made me realize that slamming your kid’s hands in car doors was not “normal.”

My sister stepped on a rusty nail barefoot when she was eight years old. It didn’t even occur to her to tell our mother about it. Instead, she poured a bottle of hydrogen peroxide on it and hoped she would be OK.

One time, I was trying to split open a bagel with a steak knife while holding it in my hand. Nobody had ever thought to tell me that this was dangerous. Sure enough, the blade cut deep into my hand, and then I tore my flesh even more pulling it back out. I was bleeding heavily and got very dizzy, almost passing out. My mother refused to take me to see a doctor for this. To this day, the left side of my ring finger and pinky finger on my left hand is numb. It feels like my hand is perpetually asleep, and it hurts sometimes when my hands get cold. I also have a scar from it.

Another time, my sister was angry at my mother and slammed the sliding van door very hard as I was climbing out. I tried to get out of the way, but it slammed very hard on my temples (right in front of my ears). I was lightheaded, nauseous, and in severe pain, but my mother told me to get over it. We had just arrived at my cousins’ house, and my oldest cousin got impatient with me for not wanting to play.

These are memories that have always been stored in my conscious memory bank. They sucked, but I never really thought of them as abuse. However, reviewing these life events from the perspective of a loving mother makes me shudder!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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My partner at Adoption Under One Roof wrote a blog entry about an adoptive mother who has been charged with misdemeanor child abuse of her seven-year-old child. I was triggered by watching the video of this mother making her child swirl hot sauce in his mouth for lying and then take a cold shower. This video was on the Dr. Phil show in November, but I did not hear about it until editing my partner’s blog this morning.

You can read the story here. Her blog entry did not trigger me, but I found the video to be triggering, so please proceed with caution. I am working on bringing myself down now. The authorities know what happened to this child. I am hopeful that he is getting help and will not be harmed again.

I would physically attack anyone who ever dared to do something like that to my child!!

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*******trigger warning – emotional, ritual, & physical abuse*******

Most of my memories of ritual abuse happened during the night, so this flashback surprised me by taking place in the daytime. My sister and I had to work together to piece it all together to make sense of what happened. We both had the same basic memory – of the child falling – but we had to combine our memory fragments to piece together the how. We have different opinions of the truth of what happened that day.

A group of ritual abusers took us out in the woods during the day, which was unusual. We came to a clearing and stood in a group – the abusers with my sister and me – and watched a toddler walk around on a deer stand. The deer stand was high enough up to hurt the toddler if she fell, and it did not have guard rails on the sides (sort of like this one).

There was no adult there to protect the toddler. She looked new to walking and was unsteady on her feet. She toddled this way and that, and I was terrified about what would happen if she fell off. One of the abusers whispered in my ear in a sing-songy voice, “Hey, [child’s name]. Where’s your dolly?”

Eventually, the toddler lost her balance and fell off the deer stand. My sister says she remembers watching her body fall to the ground and thinking, “Hmmm. I thought it would bounce.” She believes the toddler died and that we witnessed a murder. I choose to believe that there was some sort of cushion that prevented the toddler from dying, but I do not remember the toddler making any noise, such as crying after the fall.

I have been haunted by nightmares of falling my entire life, especially of my son falling from a great height. I hear that people never hit the ground when they fall in their dreams, but I do – both my son and I hit the ground in my dreams. I do not like sitting on balconies, and I am fearful whenever my son is anywhere near any sort of ledge, such as a hotel balcony.

My sister has been haunted by the sound of the toddler’s body hitting the ground – thump. She hears is over and over in her head, followed by the thought of, “Hmmm. I thought it would bounce.”

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Photo credit: Hekatekris

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*******trigger warning – sexual, physical, and sibling abuse*******

An odd thing about S was that I do not have memories of her doing sexual things to me directly. Instead, she forced my sister and me to do sexual things to each other, such as “play doggie” and have the “male” dog insert objects in the female dog. At this point, I was still a virgin but my sister was not (thanks to the male babysitter), so I was always the “male dog” in this sick game. When I first recovered these memories, I questioned them because I had not read about this form of abuse anywhere. I also did not understand what S was getting out of forcing one child to hurt another.

If my sister or I did not obey completely, then the sibling would suffer. For example, if I showed any sign of resistance or anything short of completely obedience, S would torture my sister and vice versa.

One time, my sister was not completely compliant, so S smothered me with a pillow. She held the pillow over my head too long, and I passed out. What’s weird is that, even though my body was passed out, I have a memory of the entire experience from the perspective of the ceiling. Once S realized that I had passed out, she checked and found that I was not breathing. She dragged my body to the basement’s bathroom (the torture was almost always in the basement) and laid me down to look like I had fallen and hit my head. She told my sister to run upstairs and get my parents. She gave me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and told me in an angry voice that she wasn’t going to jail for a worthless piece of $@#% like me.

I came to, coughing because of the taste of cigarettes in my mouth and lungs. S had been smoking a cigarette before her torture session, and the taste of tobacco was still heavy on her breath. My parents got there as I was coming to, and S explained that I was playing too wildly, slipped, fell, and hit my head on the toilet. My parents told me to be more careful and went back upstairs to do whatever they had been doing.

I don’t know who was more traumatized by this experience – my sister or me. I have suffered from flashbacks of tasting cigarette smoke throughout my life, even though I have never smoked. Until I learned that any of your senses can hold memories and release flashbacks, I was perplexed by this recurring taste of cigarette smoke in my mouth.

What really disturbs me is that I have a difficult time calling myself a physical abuse survivor, even though almost being smothered to death is clearly physical abuse. I don’t know why I have such a hard time with that label. I guess I keep thinking that other physical abuse survivors had it worse.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Man on swing (c) Lynda BernhardtAs you can probably tell by reading this blog, I do not have any trouble labeling myself as a survivor of sexual abuse. I can even “own” the label of being a survivor of ritual abuse. I have no issue with the label of emotional abuse, either. However, I have a hard time with this when it comes to “owning” the label of physical abuse. My sister, who endured the same abuses that I did, also struggles with this label.

Perhaps the reason for this is that we did not spend our lives hiding our physical bruises from others. We never went to the hospital for unexplained broken bones. I never worried that my parents were going to kill me by inflicting physical pain. About the worse thing either parent did physically was to slap me across the face when I was around eight years old. It wasn’t pleasant, but it hardly rises to the level of being beaten with a belt or having my bones broken.

However, I did suffer from physical abuse. S, my most sadistic abuser, would suffocate me with a pillow as “discipline” for my sister (and vice versa). One time, S took it too far and smothered me until I passed out. She had to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to bring me back to consciousness. If that is not physical abuse, then I don’t know what it. Nevertheless, it is hard for me to think of myself as a “survivor of physical abuse,” even with this history.

I have no explanation for why I resist that label. It is not because the other forms of abuse were “worse” or anything. In fact, I struggled with body memories for years of “tasting” cigarette smoke, even though I have never smoked, because S had smoked a cigarette recently when she performed the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. When hub used to jokingly put a pillow over my head early in our marriage, I would freeze up and be unable to “fight back” or even move until he removed the pillow. Clearly, this was a traumatizing event in my life.

However, that is pretty much the only direct physical abuse that I can point to. Perhaps it makes a difference to me that it only happened that one time. However, if that only happened one time to my own child, I would have no problem labeling a smothering as physical abuse. I truly do not know why I struggle with this.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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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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