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Posts Tagged ‘types of child abuse’

Microscopic View (c) Lynda BernhardtMany child abuse survivors ask the question, “Which type of child abuse is the worst?” I guess child abuse survivors want to figure out where they fall in the pecking order of pain. Some might want to reassures themselves that their abuse really was that bad while others are still trying to convince themselves that it wasn’t.

I asked my therapist this question. He replied that there is no value in comparing abuses. Pain is pain, and all pain hurts. I agree with him that all abuse is bad and that even “just one time” is enough to damage a child’s spirit. However, the question still remains: Which type is worse?

As someone who has experienced most forms of abuse, I can speak intelligently to this question. Physical abuse is hard because it is physically painful, leaves your body sore as a reminder of the abuse, and is terrifying because a much larger person is manipulating your body. You have the fear of losing your life at the hands of a much larger person.

Sexual abuse is hard because the abuse moves inside of your body to a place where you thought you were protected. Sexual abuse feels as if the person is reaching inside of you to harm your spirit. Also, the body can “betray” you by responding with positive sensations as you are being harmed, causing you to question whether you have any right to complain.

Ritual abuse is hard because you are being abused by “professionals” who have a calculated plan of how to harm you. There is nothing impulsive about the things being done to you. It is hard to work through knowing that these people conspired to break you.

When I looked back over my child abuse memories, the emotional elements of all of these abuses have been the hardest for me to heal. While my body would heal from the physical abuse, the emotional scars remained. The sexual abuse left no marks anywhere except on my wounded spirit. What made the ritual abuse so bad was the emotional element: That is where my ritual abusers put their greatest focus.

So, my answer to the question, “Which type of child abuse is the worst?” would be emotional abuse, and emotional abuse is present in all forms of abuse. This brings us back to what my therapist said when I asked him this question: All abuse is bad.

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Emotional Abuse category

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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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

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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