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Child Abuse,  Domestic Violence,  Substance Abuse

Why Do We Hurt the Ones We Love?

Today I’m turning my blog over to Kassandra Lamb. Writing and psychology, have always vied for number one on Kassandra Lamb’s Greatest Passions list. In her youth, she had to make a decision between writing and paying the bills. She was partial to heat, electricity and food, so…

Now retired from a career as a psychologist, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her always kind, generous and insightful protagonist, Kate. When not at her computer, transported in mind and spirit into Kate’s world, she lives in Florida and Maryland, with her husband and her Alaskan Husky, Amelia. She also hangs out on Twitter and Facebook.

Take it away, Kassandra

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 Thanks so much, Rhonda, for letting me stop by today, and talk about some things that are very important to me, and to all of us in our society!

*yanks soapbox out from under Rhonda and climbs aboard*

You’ve recently blogged about both domestic violence and recovery from alcoholism. I’d like to expand a little on those topics. I was a psychotherapist for 20 years, specializing in trauma recovery. Most of my clients were survivors of some kind of abuse or violence; many grew up in alcoholic households, and quite a few were also in recovery from alcoholism and/or drug abuse themselves.

It’s not hard for us to imagine the immediate effects of these experiences–the battered bodies and psyches, the child hiding under his bed or holding her ears to block out the shouting, the broken promises as the addicted parent once again chooses his or her drug of choice over the needs of the family. What is more difficult to fathom are the long-term effects. Or just how pervasive these problems are in our society.

You all may be shaking your heads about now, thinking, ‘Those poor people. At least that’s only happening in a few families.’ I wish that were the case. I won’t bore you with a lot of statistics; suffice it to say that sexual abuse, the one we tend to assume is the least common of these childhood traumas, affects about 20% of children today. Yes, you heard me correctly; one in every five children experiences some kind of inappropriate sexual encounter, with an adult or much older child, before the age of 18. And we’re not talking playing doctor here; we’re talking molestation. When you include date rape by a peer, that figure jumps to 30% for girls.

Alcohol and drugs have a reciprocal relationship with child abuse and domestic violence. Alcohol alone is a contributing factor in at least 25% of abuse incidents. When someone already harbors urges toward sexual abuse or violence, the lowered inhibitions while drunk or high allows them to act on those urges.

Image by Tessy (Alcalá de Henares) at Morguefiles.com

And domestic violence and child abuse survivors are at a much higher risk for alcoholism and drug abuse (75% in some studies). They are self-medicating, trying to numb the emotional pain and cope with the depression and anxiety that are among the most common long-term effects.

About now you are probably starting to make nooses so you can lynch all those evil abusers who cause so much harm. Well, guess what? With very few exceptions, all those abusers were themselves abused children and/or witnessed domestic violence. How else did they learn those aberrant behaviors? Children from loving homes rarely grow up to have poor impulse control, lousy anger management skills and a lot of pent-up rage. Children from highly dysfunctional families may very well have all of the above.

So we have two vicious cycles interacting with each other. The child is abused (and/or witnesses domestic violence) and grows up harboring all the ingredients to become an abuser themselves. They turn to alcohol and other mind-altering drugs to self-medicate, and this reduces their inhibitions so they act on their abusive tendencies.

Now I’m most definitely not saying that all abused children grow up to be abusive. Indeed, I am amazed at how many abuse survivors, despite a whole lot of emotional scar tissue, are bound and determined to not follow in their parents’ footsteps, and a lot of them succeed in improving on their parents’ track record fairly dramatically, especially if they seek therapy as an adult. Some, however, often despite good intentions, perpetuate the cycle.

There are quite a few other long-term effects of abuse, witnessing domestic violence and/or parental addiction. The list is way too long to post here, but one of the areas that is impacted the most is relationships. Folks from these kinds of backgrounds have major trust issues. And they are often control freaks, because everything was so out of control and scary when they were kids so they have to control everything today, in order to feel secure.

The good news is that it is quite possible to recover from these issues. It often takes awhile and it can be painful at times. But so are root canals. And just like with abscessed teeth, if we ignore the infection, it tends to get worse and can go systemic, affecting more and more aspects of our lives.

So what’s the bottom line here? If we can stop child abuse and help those already abused to heal, future generations will also see a lot less spousal abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse. Below are links to just a few of the organizations that are trying to stop child abuse.

Even though I burned out after 20 years of doing trauma recovery work–it’s pretty intense as you can imagine–I’m still trying to do my part as well. I became a college professor so that I could pass the torch to the next generation of therapists. And when the writing bug–that had lain semi-dormant in my system for decades–woke up and basically took over my life, I decided to use my writing to continue this calling.

My stories (or should I say, those that my muse plants in my head and forces me to write) are not depressing, however, although they sometimes deal with some heavy issues. They are mysteries, designed to entertain with suspense, and a touch of humor to lighten the mood now and then. But wherever possible, I try to educate while I entertain.

An enlightened society is a more civilized society. I’m not sure who said that originally but I’m sure somebody did. I don’t think I just made it up. I’m not usually quite that profound.

Thanks, you all, for stopping by today and thank you again, Rhonda, for letting me borrow your soapbox!

Sites and Info to Prevent Child Abuse:

http://www.preventchildabuse.org

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm  (has hotline numbers for US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and international)

http://www.preventchildabuse.org/publications/parents/downloads/ten_ways_to_prevent.pdf  (list of things you can do)

Or Google ‘Stop Child Abuse’ and plug in your state to find local resources.

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Thank you for the informative post, Kassandra.

 

Originally posted on rhondahopkins.com. Post may have been modified to fit the needs of this site.

 

 

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