Category Archives: Physical Abuse

Vigilance, Part 3 – Physical Abuse

Rib fractures in an infant, secondary to child abuse, Author/Source National Institute of Health (PD as work product of US Dept. of Health and Human Service, a federal agency)

Physical abuse is the form of child abuse most frequently reported by the media and most familiar to the public.  It is, also, the form most frequently fatal.

Children can and do sustain bumps and bruises, in the course of ordinary play.  Physical abuse, however, is deliberate harm by a parent or caregiver.

An abuser may characterize physical abuse as punishment for a perceived infraction.  But such punishment is out of all proportion to the infraction, and severe beyond a child’s capacity to understand or endure it. Continue reading

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Vigilance, Part 2 – Emotional Abuse

Frightened child, Author Jean-Francois Gornet, Paris, Source Selfie Velib, Originally Posted to Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Emotional abuse is an underrated form of abuse, but no less damaging for that.

The warning signs of emotional abuse include the following [1]:

  • A child who exhibits a lack of attachment to the parent.
  • A child who is delayed in physical or emotional development, unrelated to an identifiable medical or psychological condition.
  • A child who is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children) or inappropriately infantile (constantly rocking or head-banging, for example).
  • A child who exhibits behavioral extremes (acute passivity or serious aggression; demanding behavior or abject compliance).
  • A child who attempts suicide.

The parent who rejects his/her child will constantly blame, belittle, or berate that child.  The parent unconcerned about his/her child’s well-being may refuse offers of help for that child’s school problems.

On the other hand, a parent can be so self-involved that his/her child becomes little more than a pawn for manipulation.

[1]  Prevent Child Abuse America, “Recognizing Child Abuse:  What Parents Should Know”,   https://preventchildabuse.org/resource/recognizing-child-abuse-what-parents-should-know/.

This series will continue next week with Part 3 – Physical Abuse

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Vigilance, Part 1 – Neglect

Image courtesy of NSPCC

There are a thousand ways to harm a child.  The evidence of child abuse may be subtle or more obvious.  To remain vigilant against such abuse, those of us concerned for the welfare of children must learn to recognize the warning signs.

This series of posts will address such warning signs.  The signs here are derived from lists compiled by Prevent Child Abuse America [1A].  They fall into 4 categories:  neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.  More often than not, these categories will overlap in the experience of a child.

No single warning sign, by itself, is considered definitive.  Occurring repeatedly or in combination, however, these signs warrant further investigation.

General

The general signs that child abuse may be present in a family include unusual wariness on the part of a child; sudden changes in a child’s behavior; deterioration in a child’s school performance; and learning disabilities on a child’s part unrelated to an identifiable medical or psychological condition.

But the children of abuse may, also, be overachievers, anxious to please.

That said, we will begin with neglect. Continue reading

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Hospital of Horrors

Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Author Roman Boed of Netherlands, Source Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Most of us view hospitals as places of hope and healing.  According to a federal lawsuit filed last week, Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital does not fit that bill [1A].

Damning Investigations

Investigations by both the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica confirm that children confined to Aurora were subjected to physical and/or sexual abuse there [1B].

Willful Ignorance

Child welfare officials at the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services (DCFS) allegedly ignored the issues at Aurora due to a shortage of other psychiatric facilities willing to accept DCFS referrals.

Despite an increased number of complaints to the state’s child abuse hotline regarding Aurora, DCFS did not stop referring patients to that hospital until pressure was applied by watchdog groups and state legislators.

For those reasons, DCFS is, also, named in the suit.

Continue reading

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Full and Satisfying

Nativity scene at St. Viktor Church, Dulmen, Germany, Author/Source Dietmar Rabich (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Can the victims of abuse ever lead full and satisfying lives?  That depends, to a large extent, on how we define “full and satisfying”.

There is no question that abuse can kill.  Those of us who survive may be left with lifelong physical and emotional scars.  Abuse can leave victims struggling with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  Abuse can turn sex into a weapon, in the desperate search for love.  Abuse can lead to self-medication, with drugs or alcohol.

But that is not the whole story.  Not by a long shot.

“…even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself.  He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.”

– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning described his experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp.  He concluded that human beings strive for purpose, and that – whatever our circumstances – we have the ability to give life meaning through love, work, and suffering.

At first glance, that may not make sense.  Oh, most of us would agree that life can be given meaning by romantic love, perhaps brotherly love.  After some thought, we might be persuaded that life can be given meaning by work – even tedious or menial work, if done to support the ones we love.

Yet suffering? Not such a stretch as it might seem.  We recognize the concept of sacrifice in a noble cause (love of God, love of country, etc.), and sacrifice for the sake of a beloved.  Mothers who have lost a child will understand that their grief is, in part, a testament to that child.

How does this relate to abuse victims?  Well, we have certainly suffered.  That our suffering was not to any purpose makes it all the more cruel.  We were innocent victims.  Blameless.

And that is the place to start… Continue reading

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A Modern Plague – Trafficking in a Small Town

Main Street, Smyrna, DE, Author Dough4872 (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

The I-95 Corridor which links New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC with Miami is a major conduit for human trafficking, a plague that has spread across this country [1A].  According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as many as 100,000 children each year are victims of sex trafficking in the US.

Some 70% of trafficking incidents occur at truck stops.  There, predatory pimps seek out desperate young girls and boys, often runaways [1B].  Most vulnerable are children between the ages of 12 and 14 from broken homes, with low self-esteem and a history of trauma [1C].

Given its nightlife and gambling, Jersey City is considered a trafficking hot spot [1D].

Though situated on the I-95 Corridor, Smyrna – a small town in Delaware founded before the American Revolution – would seem an unlikely location for a human trafficking operation.  However, Smyrna police this week arrested James Walls and Sha Shen at the Kiki Spa for prostitution and human trafficking [2]. Continue reading

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The Weight of Sorrow

“Compulsion is despair on the emotional level.  The substances, people, or activities we become compulsive about are those we believe capable of taking our despair away…Compulsive behavior, at its most fundamental, is a lack of self-love; it is an expression of a belief that we are not good enough.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

For many abuse victims, food takes on an importance far and above its ability to nourish.  We eat our anger, stuff our guilt (misplaced though it is).  We use food both as a reward and a punishment.

The smallest morsel can set in motion a binge.

Weight issues feed into the sense of loneliness and isolation abuse victims already feel.  The life opportunities of which weight deprives us should be penalty enough.  But our losses generate regrets, and we carry those regrets forward, along with the pounds.

Purposes Behind Compulsive Eating

Like drinking to excess, compulsive eating serves two basic purposes.  While ostensibly numbing our pain, it actually recreates the emotional experience of abuse – our fear, our helplessness, our shame, our rage.  And it re-affirms (albeit in a dysfunctional way) that we deserve to have our needs met.

Self-Blame

“We had nothing to do with the reasons our parents abused or left or violated us.  We believed we did because blaming ourselves for the sorrow gave us some measure of control over it.”

-Geneen Roth, When Food Is Love

Though we were not abandoned, neglected, or abused because of what we weighed, weight issues become a “safe” focus for the emotions associated with our abuse.

We can now blame ourselves for the negative feelings the abuse caused, rather than blaming the loved ones who inflicted it on us.  But the least dieting failure feels like a sin, as well as a defeat. Continue reading

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Alleged Aboriginal Abuse

Indigenous Australian playing didgeridoo, Author Graham Crumb, Source gallery.imagicity.com/ (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

ABC in 2006 aired a show that alleged significant child sexual abuse among Australian Aboriginal communities [1].

In response, the Australian government commissioned an investigation into child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory. That, in turn, resulted in controversial legislation known as “the intervention”.  Many believe this did more harm than good.

The risk of Child Protection System involvement for Aboriginal children in Australia between 1986 and 2017 was some 7 times that of non-Aboriginal children [2].  Much of this was due to the extreme poverty in which Aboriginal communities lived.  Illness, drug addiction, and violence were related issues.

Racial bias on the part of government officials often led to harsh policies.

As a result:

  • Aboriginal children were more than twice as likely as non-Aboriginal children to experience high levels of distress.
  • Aboriginal children were less likely than non-Aboriginal children to receive formal education, and 18 times more likely to be admitted to youth detention.
  • Aboriginal children had a shorter life expectancy than non-Aboriginal children (boys 10.8 years less, girls 8.6 years less). Continue reading

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Finding Ourselves

In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.   He created them male and female, and blessed them…” (Gen. 5: 1-2).

Each of us is made in the image of God, and each unique.  Abuse can bury that knowledge, along with our hopes and dreams.  We can lose ourselves – can feel so downtrodden, so crushed, that we believe we are worthless.  But that is a lie.

The challenge for abuse victims is to find ourselves again.  To find ourselves and reclaim our lives.

A song like Kelsea Ballerini’s “Miss Me More” may lift our spirits (a step in the right direction).  Even high heels and red lipstick may help.  Scripture, however, serves as a more reliable guide.

Accepted

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Rom. 15: 7 NIV).

In Christ, we are accepted.  After a lifetime of rejection, this is an astonishing experience.

Loved

“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…” (Eph. 1: 4-5).

In Christ, we are God’s beloved children, members of His own family, selected from the beginning of the world. Continue reading

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Philippine Children in Crisis

Philippine children, Author US Marines from Arlington, VA, Source flickr (PD as work product of federal govt.)

The Duterte Administration of the Philippines has resorted to mass arrests in its war on drugs, and is planning to broaden that hard line approach to include children [1][2].

New legislation would impose mandatory prison terms of up to 12 years on children as young as 9 y.o.  The children of the poor will be most heavily impacted, since they are more likely to join drug gangs in an effort to survive.

The US State Dept. website describes our nation’s relationship with the Philippines as “based on strong historical and cultural links and a shared commitment to democracy and human rights [3].”

According to the non-profit Human Rights Watch, however, conditions at government facilities for children are already inhumane.  This is particularly true at Bahay Pag-asa (“House of Hope”).  Locked in cages, children there suffer from skin infections suggesting inadequate diet and sanitation.

“I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ ” (Matt. 25: 36).

[1]  The Defender Magazine, Spring 2019, “Children in Crisis:  A Report from the Philippines”.

[2]  New York Times, “Philippine Law Would Make 9-Year-Olds Criminally Liable” by Jason Gutierrez, 1/22/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/world/asia/philippines-juvenile-justice-law.html.

[3]  US Department of State, “US Relations with the Philippines”, 7/17/18, https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-the-philippines/.

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