Posts Tagged ‘neglect’

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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Spiderweb (c) Lynda Bernhardt

Unfortunately, there are many ways to abuse a child. No matter how a child is abused, the child walks away with a damage soul, repressed emotions (and often repressed memories, too), shame, and self-loathing. The key to healing from any form of child abuse is learning how to love yourself.

Adult survivors of child abuse often minimize the damage they suffered. My therapist once told me that “crazy” people try to convince you that they were abused, and abuse survivors try to convince you that they weren’t. I see a lot of truth in that statement. Minimizing the severity of the abuse is a coping mechanism that abused children use to survive. To recognize the severity of the abuse would cause the child to fall into despair.

Unfortunately, many abuse survivors compare what they suffered to what others have suffered and conclude that they did not have it that bad because it could have been worse. If you were ever abused, even only one time, it was “that bad.” Even “just one rape” or “just one broken arm” is traumatic to a child and is enough to sever his ability to trust.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is a part of every other type of abuse and, in my opinion, is the most damaging component of abuse. Broken bones heal, but the emotional impact of having your bones broken does not without a lot of work. Some people “only” suffered emotional abuse, but their emotional wounds look very similar to the emotional wounds of people whose abuse was also physical. Watching another person slaughter your beloved pet is going to emotionally damage you, even though you were never touched.


Neglect is abuse by omission rather than commission. Neglect can include not feeding a child or providing him with medical care.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is any form of abuse that harms your body. Many people think that physical abuse must leave marks on your body, but many forms of physical abuse do not. Suffocating a child is a good example of a form of physical abuse that does not leave physical marks but is physically abusive.

Ritual Abuse

Ritual abuse is abuse inflicted by “experts” in abusing children. While other forms of abuse seem to be “crimes of passion” as an abuser offloads his shame onto a child, ritual abuse is more of a “crime of intent” in which the method of abusing the child is well thought out. The abuser often forces the child to do things that violate his moral code with the goal of breaking the child’s will and dominating him. All of the other forms of abuse are often used to this end.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse can be perpetrated by men or women, and it is not limited to rape. Forcing a child to watch pornography is one form of sexual abuse that does not involve touching the child.

Other Forms of Abuse

Other forms of abuse do not fall neatly into any of these categories. For example, neither burying a child nor locking him in a box for hours falls neatly into any of these categories, and yet both actions are clearly abusive.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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