Category Archives: Physical Abuse

Returning to Toxic Relationships, Part 1

Old love letters, Source Flickr, Author Rachel Ashe of Vancouver, Canada (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Almost all of us have, at some time or other, run into an old flame and felt the desire to reconnect.  What draws us is a mix of nostalgia and the desire to correct past mistakes, to “get it right” this time.

The problem is that many of the former relationships to which we find ourselves drawn as abuse survivors were, to put it mildly, toxic.

Why do we save the love letters of a man who repeatedly cheated on us?  Why are we tempted to call the boyfriend who stole our charge cards and emptied our bank account?  Why do we find ourselves checking Facebook for the ex who put us in the emergency room?

The answer is not that time heals all wounds.  It is not that we are seeking closure, that we enjoy pain…or that we are simply too dim to know better.

One reason is familiarity.  There is something powerfully familiar about these toxic relationships.  They evoke buried memories from our past, memories we once associated with love. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Bunnies

Baby with toy bunny, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/floridamemory/6520748155/, Author Florida Memory (PD)

WARNING: Graphic Images

  • Joseph Milano and Lauren Semanyk, a Maryland couple, have been charged with third degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of their 10 month old daughter [1].   Other charges pending include possession of drug paraphernalia.  The couple waited over 6 hours to report that the baby had ingested fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50-100 times more powerful than morphine.  They described Angelina to emergency personnel as having drowned during a bath.
  • A 16 month old Pennsylvania toddler is in guarded condition after having chewed on a discarded baggie that held heroin [2].  Narcan saved both the baby’s life and his mother’s, both found unconscious.  A search at the home turned up a dozen empty heroin bags.  The mother is expected to be charged.
  • Antonio Floyd and Shantanice Barksdale, a Michigan couple, have been charged with second degree murder and manslaughter in the death of their 18 month old daughter [3].  The toddler, Ava, died after ingesting some 15 times the amount of fentanyl commonly seen in overdose deaths.  Drug residue, baggies, scales, herb grinders, and guns were found in the couple’s home.  They have two other children.

We mull over baby names.  We paint our nurseries pink and blue; decorate them with bunnies or friendly cartoon characters.  We buy sound machines, cashmere receiving blankets, teddy bears 3’ tall, and designer baby clothes.

Amid all the excitement, we overlook only one thing in preparing for the birth of a child.  And that is the very thing a child needs most:  loving and responsible parents, capable of putting their child’s needs first. Continue reading

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BOOK REVIEW – Climbing Over Grit

Image result for wikimedia commons "climbing over grit"

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Climbing Over Grit by Marzeeh Laleh Chini and her daughter Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi is a ringing indictment of child marriage, in the years leading up to and during the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

A moving story of courage, strength, and love in the face of abuse, Climbing Over Grit is a first-hand account of the early life of Laleh’s mother, Najma.

Neglected by her wealthy but self-absorbed parents, Najma is married at the age of 11 to a man thirteen years her senior who regularly beats and rapes her.  Despite horrific abuse, Najma’s spirit is never broken.  She forms a close relationship with her mother-in-law and manages to raise four children (becoming a grandmother at the early age of 30).

In the process – and despite her husband’s vehement opposition – Najma resumes her education, attaining a small degree of independence.  However, history repeats itself when Najma and her husband arrange a marriage for their daughter, Jaleh, at the age of 15.  Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, domestic abuse, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

R. Kelly

“It’s too late. They should have did this s__ 30 years ago.”
– R. Kelly, Facebook Live [1]

The Lifetime channel recently aired a documentary series called “Surviving R. Kelly” which explores the R&B singer-songwriter’s reputation for preying on young girls [2].  The program contains statements by several of Kelly’s underage victims.  The young women describe having been groomed, abused, then finally abandoned.

A number of journalists have reported on R. Kelly’s reprehensible behavior.  Kelly was acquitted of child pornography, though a tape allegedly showed him having sex with and urinating on a 14 y.o.

The program sheds light not only on the singer’s pattern of predation, but the roots of this behavior.  It, also, exposes the complicity of others in the music business. Continue reading

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Emotional Abuse, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

Gypsy – Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Gypsy Rose Blanchard, Source MyDeathSpace.com

Imagine you are told as a child that you have a debilitating illness, an illness that restricts your activities, an illness likely to be fatal.  Due to your fragile condition, you live a life of seclusion.  You cannot attend school or have normal friendships.  You undergo extensive medical treatment, even surgery.  But the illness lingers, impacting every aspect of your life.

Then you learn all this was a lie.

Munchausen Syndrome by proxy is both a mental illness on the part of a parent or guardian, and a form of child abuse [1].  A child’s caretaker – often the mother – fabricates symptoms on the child’s part and creates real one (whether through the use of poison, starvation, contamination of an intravenous line, or other means).

The underlying cause of the mental illness is unknown.  Experts suspect that the payoff for the caregiver is admiration for supposed “dedication” in the face of a tragic illness.  The abuse often goes undetected by health care providers for years.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard was one such victim [2][3].  Her mother, Claudine (“Dee Dee”) Blanchard, isolated the child from other family members, lied about Gypsy’s age, and treated her like an invalid.   Frail and confined to a wheelchair, Gypsy was told she had brain damage, leukemia, muscular dystrophy, seizures, asthma, hearing, and vision problems.

Due to these health issues, Gypsy was given backstage passes by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and free trips to Disney World.  She stayed at Ronald McDonald House.  Dee Dee meanwhile received a home from Habitat for Humanity. Continue reading

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Unbiblical, Part 6 – Forgiveness v. Victims’ Rights

“ ‘And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us’ ” (Luke 11: 4).

As I have said elsewhere on this website, forgiveness is a personal matter between abuse victims and their God.  Urging forgiveness on victims prematurely ignores the gravity of their trauma, and the depravity of the sins committed against them.

This amounts to a further violation.  Victims will necessarily feel that Christians are siding with the predator…even condoning the abuse.  Shockingly, in some cases Christians have been guilty of this.

Witness the Catholic Church sex scandal.  This was, at best, a product of poor judgment, and a distorted view of Scripture.  At worst, it was a cold and calculated attempt to avoid corporate responsibility, while facilitating the most heinous of crimes.

Detail from “Christ before the High Priest” by Gerar van Honthorst (1617), National Gallery (Accession No. NG3679), London, Source Web Gallery of Art (PD-Art, PD-Old-100)

Either way, church hierarchy applied precisely the same rationale to young abuse victims, as the high priest, Caiaphas, did to Christ:  “ ‘…[I]t is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish’ ” (John 11: 50).

To be clear, forgiveness is not a “warm and cozy” feeling, on the part of victims.  It is a deliberate decision by victims to leave the harm inflicted on them behind, and instead move on with their lives. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 5 – Self-Sacrifice v. Codependence

Sketch for mural “The Spirit of Self-Sacrificing Love” by Kenyon Cox at Oberlin College, Smithsonian Museum (1983.114.15), Source https://americanart.si.edu (PD-Art, PD-Old-95)

“The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.  We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

– Mother Teresa

Self-sacrifice is natural to Christians, and encouraged.  Christians are to put the legitimate needs of others ahead of their own, in imitation of Christ.  Mother Teresa was a shining example of this.  For abuse victims, however, self-sacrifice can become confused with codependence.

Codependence as an After-Effect of Abuse

Individuals suffering from codependence will allow the emotions and behavior of others to dictate their view of themselves.  Those with codependence will tolerate – even, unconsciously, seek out – relationships that are “one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive verbally or physically” [1].

Codependent characteristics include low self-esteem; fear of anger; denial of any problems with the relationship; and an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the feelings, choices, and actions of the loved one [2].

While on its face, codependence may resemble Christian self-sacrifice, there are distinct differences between the two.

The codependent individual may forego his/her goals and desires to meet the perceived “needs” of a loved one.  But the underlying motive for this is not the welfare of the loved one.  It is fear.

Actually, the codependent individual is attempting to shore up his/her fragile sense of worth, strike an unspoken bargain for love and affection, and maintain the relationship at all costs (however abusive or unsatisfying it may be).  An overly solicitous mother might be a crude illustration.

By comparison, Christian self-sacrifice is not the attempt to manipulate (or placate) an individual perceived as more “important” or powerful.  It is, or should be, truly selfless.

Clinging to an Imitation

None of this is meant to imply that abuse victims cannot love and love intensely.  The problem lies in the fact victims have not seen healthy love modeled.  What feels familiar is a flawed version of love, an imitation.  The real love and support victims need seem out of reach, so we cling to the imitation with all our might, confusing pain for passion. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 4 – Trusting God, Self, and Others

Detail from “A Girl Comes to Christ” by Fritz von Uhde (1884), Museum der bildenden Künste (Accession No. 550), Germany (PD-Art, PD-Old-100)

Trusting God v. Trusting Self

Christians talk casually about God’s plan for their lives and the lives of others.  This can be grating to the ears of abuse victims (especially those new to, or unfamiliar with, the faith).

As victims are inclined to see it, God’s plan for them included abuse.  Whether He caused that abuse or merely allowed it to occur, He failed to protect them against it. And they have the scars to prove that.

The issue of innocent suffering is a profound one, and cannot be papered over with a handy Bible verse.  For abuse victims, coming to terms with it may be a lifelong struggle.

Trusting themselves can be as great a challenge.  Abuse has effectively “taught” victims not to rely on their own judgment, their own instincts.  This is something they must unlearn.

It is not helpful for Christians to urge victims to trust in God, rather than themselves.  Such trust will come with time.  It cannot be rushed.  There are deep wounds which must be healed first.

Trusting Others

Christians should be sensitive in the language they use around abuse victims.  To victims of incest, even the term “Father God” can sound disturbing.  To those who were sexually abused or tortured by siblings, the term “brothers and sisters in Christ” may be equally threatening.

Christians should not pressure victims to drop their defenses, and should not hug or make other physical contact with victims without their permission.  Victims may experience either as invasive, and shy away.

Christians should allow abuse victims to take the lead, insofar as relationships. Friendships should not be forced.  These will develop as victims gradually come to see they will not be harmed.

Originally posted 3/29/15

This series will continue next week with Self-Sacrifice v. Codependence

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse

Unbiblical, Part 3 – Humility v. Lack of Worth

“Eve” by Auguste Rodin, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Author MicheleLovesArt (MIchele Ahin at https://www.flickr.com/people/39627257@N04) (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Many, if not most, victims will conclude from the abuse inflicted on them that they have little or no value.  They are likely to view God as angry and withholding, unconcerned for their welfare.  This applies whether the abuse is emotional, physical, sexual or in the form of neglect.

When in all humility Christians describe themselves as undeserving of Salvation or compare their righteousness to “filthy rags” (Is. 64: 6), abuse victims can readily identify.  However, abuse victims are inclined to view themselves as irredeemable.

Having been treated like filthy rags, having been taught that love must be “earned” – and never is – victims may, even as adults, wrestle with shame and believe that they are worthless.  This can drive them toward legalism (Christianity as perfectionism), in a frantic attempt to obtain the love they have been denied.

But God values every life.  His love is freely given.

Christ said:

“ ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ ” (Matt. 5: 5).

He said:

“… ‘Whoever receives this little child in my name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great’” (Luke 9: 48).

Christians must, first and foremost, demonstrate God’s love to abuse victims.  If they fail in this, the shame is theirs.

Originally posted 3/22/15

This series will continue next week with Trusting God, Self, and Others

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Unbiblical, Part 2 – Sin Nature v. Abuse-Related Guilt

Woman with a broken heart, Author Nevit Dilmen, Source Sunset 02459.jpg and Broken Heart symbol.svg (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Christians speak regularly about the “sin nature” of mankind, the inclination by human beings to do wrong, as illustrated by wars and crime.

The following verses on the topic are typical:

“…[T]he imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” (Gen. 8:21).

“ ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…’” (Jer. 17:9).

“ ‘Then I will…take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes…’ ” (Ezek. 11: 19-20).

“ ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies’ ” (Matt. 15: 19).

If anyone has experienced that sin nature, abuse victims have.  Victims, however, have been more sinned against than sinning.

Unfortunately, the continuous emphasis on sin is likely to sound like condemnation to victims, when what they need is love, encouragement, and hope.

Christians should remember that abuse leaves behind deep scars.  Victims of abuse may struggle with gender identification, sexual addiction or dysfunction, self-neglect, anxiety, depression, dissociation and related amnesia, drug or alcohol addiction, cutting, anorexia, bulimia, binging, and other issues.  The majority of prostitutes are thought to be runaways, with a history of abuse.

Dealing with major problems like these is not for the faint of heart.  Nor is it for the self-righteous.  Merely living ordinary lives can take enormous effort and enormous courage by abuse victims.  That victims, for the most part, accomplish this is amazing.

Victims should not be made a topic of gossip.  Nor should they be subjected to snap judgments, whether about their morality or mental state.

Above all, victims should be reassured that they were not the guilty party in abuse; that, as children, they were wholly incapable of consent to whatever was done to them; and that God still loves them, despite all they have been through.

Originally posted 3/15/15

This series will continue next week with Humility v. Lack of Worth

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

 

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Prostitution, Religion, Sexual Abuse