Category Archives: Neglect

Abuse and Cutting, Part 2

Alternatives to self-harm: sensory and emotional substitutes, Author MissLunaRose12 (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

We continue our examination of the relationship between child abuse and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) or cutting.  Up to 79% of those who self-injure report having experienced child abuse [1A].

Intervention/Treatment

Because NSSI tends to be a compulsive behavior, professional help is important [2].

  • Adults engaged in cutting should be urged to seek medical and mental health treatment [3A].  Accusations and threats should not, however, be used.
  • Young children can initially be assessed by a pediatrician [3B].  Tweens and teens should be encouraged to confide in a parent or trusted adult (a teacher, school counselor, or the like) [3C].

Treatment must be individualized to the patient.

It is essential that the abuse which gave rise to the cutting be addressed [4A].  Emotional abuse and neglect are not always obvious, since they do not lead to physical bruising.  Medical professionals working with children must be aware of this.

Alternatives

The person engaged in self-harm – whether child, tween, teen, or adult – must learn healthier coping strategies for stress management [3D].

There are alternatives to cutting [5].  Sensory substitutes include applying an ice cube to the skin, snapping a rubber band on the wrist, intense exercise, cold showers, and listening to loud music.  Emotional substitutes include writing on the skin, journaling, creating a unique playlist, and dancing.

Prevention

Preventive measures include parental training and supervision [4B].  The presence of an empathetic caregiver can aid the child, tween, or teen in better understanding his/her life experiences [1B].

If a supportive family is not available, a supportive social network may buffer children against the potential impact of abuse.   A formal support group (in person or virtual) can, also, be helpful [3E].

Since many who self-injure feel lonely and disconnected, improving communication skills can be beneficial [3F].

Biblical Perspective

Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps. 27: 14).

What adults know that children do not is that things can get better.  The Bible instructs us to trust God and wait on Him.  We can take our worries, sorrow, anger, and frustration to Him.  God never abandons us.  Nor does He condemn us, if we repent our actions.

That makes cutting unnecessary.

[1A and 1B]  Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR), Cornell University, “The relationship between self-injury and child maltreatment” by Margaret Fleming and Lauren Aronson, http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/perch/resources/the-relationship-between-self-injury-and-child-maltreatmentfinal-1.pdf.

[2]  U Lifeline, “Cutting”, 2020, http://www.ulifeline.org/topics/135-cutting.

[3A through 3F]  Mayo Clinic, “Self-injury/cutting”, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/self-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20350950 and https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/self-injury/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350956.

[4A through 4B]  BMC Psychiatry, “The impact of child maltreatment on non-suicidal self-injury:  data from a representative sample of the general population” by Rebecca Brown et al, 6/8/18, https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-018-1754-3.

[5]  Focus on the Family, “Truth from the Bible for Cutters:  When Feelings ofr Self-Harm Are Strong” by Joannie Debrito PhD, 1/1/19, https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/truth-from-the-bible-for-cutters-when-feelings-for-self-harm-are-strong/.

The signs of NSSI were discussed in Part 1 of this series.

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Abuse and Cutting, Part 1

Healed scars from prior self-harm, Author James Heilman, MD (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Mental health issues including drug abuse and suicide are known to be long-term consequences of child abuse [1A][3].  Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI), more commonly known as cutting, is another [1B][4A].

Definition

NSSI is defined as the deliberate damaging of the surface of the skin – whether by scratching, cutting, piercing, or burning – but without suicidal intent [1C][2A].

“After I’d seen the blood, it was like a release of anger or some sort of release.  I can’t really explain the feeling, but it was just a release.”

-Alex [6]

According to the Mayo Clinic, this type of self-harm is a maladaptive means of coping with profound emotional pain, anger, or frustration [2B].

Cutting (in whatever form) acts to distract from internal turmoil; restore a sense of control (at least over the body, if not the underlying situation); inflict punishment; and communicate distress to the world [2C].

Though cutting may bring temporary relief, calm is generally followed by guilt and shame [2D][7A].  Soon enough, the troubling emotions return.  More-serious (even fatal) harm can follow.

Prevalence

Studies have shown cutting to be extremely common among adolescents.  Over 20% of adolescents are now thought to self-harm at some point [7B].   Approximately 18% continue into adulthood [1D].  This does not make the practice benign. Continue reading

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Sex and Teenage Boys

Teenage boys, Author Bmdehan (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Bridget Sipera, a teacher at Camden Catholic High School in New Jersey, has been charged with sexually assaulting a male student less than half her age [1].  The two repeatedly had sex over an 18 month period.

Western society tends to view sexual activity among teens as part of the natural process of development.  We bombard teens with sexual images.  Discouraging sex seems repressive to us.

While we may be protective toward our daughters, some of us actually cheer our sons on.  Sex with a teacher is seen as the ultimate fantasy.

But there are serious dangers associated with early sexual activity.  And sex between an adult and child is as damaging to boys as it is to girls.

Risky Behaviors

Teens who engage in sex are likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors in adulthood [2].

They are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, and less likely to use condoms. This increases their chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, and having an unwanted pregnancy.

Ten million of the sexually transmitted diseases newly reported each year are acquired by young people between the ages of 15 and 24 [3].  It bears mention that the brain is not fully developed till age 25.

Sexual Addiction

Early exposure to sexual content can, also, give rise to sexual addiction [4A].

Best estimates are that 3% – 6% of American men suffer from sexual addiction [5][6].  However, women can fall prey to sexual addiction, too.

Sexual addiction can destroy relationships, compromise finances, and contribute to criminality.

Typically, sexual addiction is characterized by one or more of the following [4B]:

  • compulsive masturbation;
  • reliance on pornography and/or prostitutes;
  • an endless succession of meaningless sexual encounters;
  • use of fetishes in place of human interaction;
  • voyeurism/exhibitionism; and
  • sexual sadism or masochism.

Addicts persist in these behaviors despite the negative consequences. Continue reading

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Fighting Back – Hunting Child Predators

Marisol Nichols at 2018 San Diego Comic-Con, Author Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

The TV series Law and Order:  Special Victims Unit and Riverdale could hardly be more different.  The first is a gritty crime drama.  The second is a teen melodrama based on the Archie Comics.

The two, however, have something in common:  a remarkable actress who takes part in real life FBI and other police “sting” operations targeting child predators [1].

Employing her acting skills, Marisol Nichols collaborates with law enforcement – sometimes in the role of a child, sometimes in the role of a distraught parent – to combat sex trafficking.  Texts and phone calls lure child molesters to motel rooms, where they can be arrested.

Nichols was, herself, sexually assaulted at 11 years of age.

The actress has since established a non-profit called Foundation for a Slavery Free World https://www.slaveryfreeworld.org.  Her non-profit produces Hollywood events to raise awareness of sex trafficking, and recognizes groups and individuals for their work in this field.

For her own work, Marisol Nichols received the President’s Distinguished Volunteer Service Award in 2017.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28: 1).

[1]  E!, “Riverdale Star Marisol Nichols’ Story of Hunting Child Predators Is Being Turned Into a TV Show” by Lauren Piester, 8/31/20, https://www.eonline.com/news/1183800/riverdale-star-marisol-nichols-story-of-hunting-child-predators-is-being-turned-into-a-tv-show.

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“Shadow Puppets” by Melissa

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Below is a violent, firsthand account of child abuse — most particularly physical abuse.

Distressing accounts can be found for every category of abuse, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or neglect.  Thousands of children are murdered worldwide before they can ever tell their harrowing stories.  

The victims of child abuse prefer not to read such accounts.  We have scars enough to attest to the reality of abuse. 

But those who still think child abuse is an insignificant issue — a subject exaggerated by the press — should make a point of reading this account.  Two things will stand out:  the enormous courage of these children; and the enormous compassion of the author (“Melissa”), now an adult.

While “Melissa” did her very best to protect herself and her brothers against their father’s neglect and their mother’s rage, I cannot agree with her conclusion that abuse is simply a matter of mental illness.

Mental illness is real.  Evil is, also, however, real.  The distinction rests in the capacity to tell right from wrong.  Mental illness involves a compromised understanding of the world and/or a compromised ability to control one’s actions. 

Evil involves a deliberate choice.

“The way that the shadows played under the door, I could see that my favorite tree was gracefully dancing in the wind. The sunlight shot like a laser beam into the closet.  ‘Hey, lets play shadow puppets.’ I whispered to my little brother.  ‘Okay,’ he said.

This time, his lips only turned a small shade of blue.  My brother faced his head towards me and I made myself look into his eyes, holding my own grief so I could contain his.  I remember looking at my mother and wondering if this time was it, would she kill him? She would always stop -before she would suffocate him.

Mom had bad days.  Her children were the face of every single person that day that had hurt her, that had let her down, a family member, an argument with my Dad.  My brother and I never knew when our turn was going to be for mom to release her anger.  I always wondered when it would begin.  Would we be able to have the comfort of the closet, would we be able to see the closet this time around?  That was always my hope.  Mom would always begin with me.  I would lay down on the sofa and she would put a pillow over my face.  She would then sit on top of me and she proceeded to suffocate me. I always turned my head to the wall facing away because I knew that my little brother was there in the hallway.  I never wanted him to see my face. I never wanted him to see the fear and sometimes even the hope – that maybe I would die…”

[Continued at:  https://livinginjmj.com/2020/03/26/the/ ]

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Scars and Glory

“I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious”

“This Is Me” by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek,
Copyright © Kobalt Music Publishing

As abuse survivors, we carry scars – emotional, mental, and physical.  That is a fact of life for us.

To be ashamed of our scars is to be ashamed of who we are and who we were meant to be.  Afraid, we became valiant.  Humiliated, we grew resolute.  Weak and wounded, we found our strength.

Our scars are proof of that.  They are proof of the power with which we held onto life…and the Power that sustained us.

We have been hurt and we have been broken.  But we are still here.  We have been defiled and spat upon, rejected and reviled.  But we are still here.

We may not meet society’s standards for perfection.  We may not fit society’s mold of what it is to be acceptable.  Those standards are a product of ignorance.  That mold was meant to be broken.

Our scars are obvious.  But we are still here.  And our wounds are, also, our glory.

“In my deepest wound I saw Your glory and it astounded me.”

-St. Augustine of Hippo

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Gym Class

Elektrostal Grammar School. Gymnasium No. 6, modeling lesson, Author Dmitry Makeev (CC BY-SA 4.0 International).

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Most of us remember gym class – the awkward uniforms, the pungent locker rooms, the embarrassment of the showers, the sting of chlorine in the pool.

For six year olds, gym class is less about competition than activities which increase balance, flexibility, coordination, and strength.  Gym class is about cartwheels and backward rolls; about jumping rope, and learning to walk a balance beam; about building confidence.

Unfortunately, the students of Springboro, OH gym teacher, John Austin Hopkins were exposed to much more.  Hopkins has been sentenced to 8 years in prison for gross sexual imposition on 27 first grade girls during gym class [1]. Continue reading

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Restraint

Posey straightjacket, Author Marc NL (PD)

Cornelius Fredericks, 16, started a food fight at a Michigan behavioral treatment facility, and wound up losing his life [1][2].

Lakeside Academy provides services to young adults either placed there by their parents or the foster care system.  Video from Lakeside shows Fredericks being restrained in the cafeteria by staff for around 8 minutes, before being given chest compressions, while unresponsive on the floor.  But portions of the video are missing.

Sequel Youth and Family Services, the owner of Lakeside Academy, admits that staff did not act in accord with the facility’s policy that restraint be employed as an emergency safety measure only when a student exhibits imminent danger to self or others.

Prosecutors say two staff members lay across Fredericks’ torso as they tried to restrain him.  Cornelius went into cardiac arrest, dying two days later at Bronson Methodist Hospital. Continue reading

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Suicide Prevention

Suicide with pills, Author Manos Bourdakis (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) indicates that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 15-24, the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 10-14, and the 10th leading cause of death in the US overall [1].

Risk Factors

The risk factors for suicide include [2]:

  • A prior suicide attempt or a family history of suicide;
  • Mental health issues (including depression) or a family history of such issues;
  • Substance abuse or a family history of such abuse;
  • Physical or sexual abuse;
  • Domestic violence;
  • The presence of firearms in the home;
  • Painful physical illness;
  • Financial difficulties;
  • Incarceration;
  • Suicide by peers;
  • Suicide by celebrities.

According to one study, the victims of child abuse were 2.56 times more likely to attempt suicide than others [3].   As many as 80.1% of those in the study who attempted suicide had been abused in childhood.  Continue reading

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Second Chance Adoptions

second chance 2 – Adoption & Birth Mothers*

The Dept. of Health and Human Services estimates that 1% – 5% of the 135,000 adoptions finalized in the US each year are later legally dissolved.

Second Chance Adoptions, a division of Wasatch International Adoption Agency (WIAA), is one agency that offers “second chance” adoptions. [1A].

Reasons for Re-Adoption

An adopted family may put a child up for re-adoption for a variety of reasons.  These can range from financial (involving, for instance, job loss and/or the lack of necessary medical insurance) to emotional (involving, in rare cases, Reactive Attachment Disorder a/k/a RAD).

RAD tends to occur in older children who have been severely neglected, raised in unusual settings such as institutions, or repeatedly deprived of a primary caregiver.  Children with the condition are unable to form a strong attachment to their adoptive parents.

Trauma to the Child

Adoption dissolution is no more difficult, legally speaking, than placing a biological child for adoption.  Without question, however, adoption dissolution places children at significant risk of trauma.

Not only are their lives fundamentally unsettled; these children may be left with lifelong doubts as to their own value.

As a result, children can suffer from depression or mood swings, and may be susceptible to disrupted bonding.  Of course, these are the very children in desperate need of love and stability. Continue reading

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