Tag Archives: self-harm

Punishing Ourselves, Part 1 – Numbness and Deprivation

Isolation cells at Fremantle Prison, Australia, Author Gnangarra (CC-BY-2.5-AU)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

And Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear!’ ” (Gen. 4: 13).

Though there are some hideous punishments inflicted on children, I will not be focusing on those here.  I want instead to talk about the punishment we inflict on ourselves.  The two are linked.

As abuse victims, we come to believe ourselves deficient, sinful, unworthy of love.

We may be told this directly by curses, blows, and cigarette burns, or indirectly by food, warmth, and shelter denied; by affection, comfort, and encouragement withheld; by the absence of laughter, except at our expense; by the absence of protection from sexual predation; and, above all, by the absence of hope.

Whatever the details in our case, we come to see ourselves as guilty.  We may not be able to name the sins we committed to “deserve” our abuse.  But we are certain of our guilt.

It is as if we bear the mark of Cain without ever having committed the crime.

Punishment and Deprivation

My soul has been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is” (Lam. 3: 17).

Those of us who were deprived of the basic necessities as children may deprive ourselves the same way as adults.

We cannot keep the refrigerator full or the pantry stocked.  We have difficulty using the new sheets, and may prefer sleeping on the couch or floor.  We resist purchasing a favorite food or appealing item of clothing for ourselves.  We take time off from work only reluctantly for a vacation.

Collateral to this, abuse victims who were physically and/or emotionally starved may hide food (or money and valuables) in secret spots around the house or yard.

While it may be painful to us, none of this behavior is a sign of “insanity” on our part.  It is simply a residual scar of the abuse inflicted on us, the rational response to irrational circumstances. Continue reading

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

Preventing Teen and Pre-Teen Suicide

The band “Rockers Behind the Bridge” performs at Suicide Prevention Month event (2015), Washington DC, Author US Customs and Border Protection (PD-fed. govt.)

After 7 students committed suicide, the Mesa Valley School District in Colorado briefly took 13 Reasons Why — the book on which the Netflix series by the same name is based — out of circulation [1].  The ban lasted no more than a few hours.

Other school districts have made the book mandatory summer reading.

Romanticizing Suicide

13 Reasons Why is a work of fiction in which a high school girl kills herself, leaving behind tapes to be played after her death.  Critics of the book – myself included – view it as romanticizing suicide, without providing young readers an alternative perspective.

A Daily Assault

Our children are daily assaulted by a culture that lionizes physical appearance, popularity/fame, athletic ability, wealth, and conformity.

Most do not meet the requisite criteria, in one way or another.  Those who do not may be excluded from normal activities, made the butt of jokes, taunted, intimidated, told that they are worthless, and urged to commit suicide [2].

Some 4400 will take their own lives [3][4].  Suicide is, in fact, the third leading cause of death among young people.  Over 5000 middle and high school students in the United States attempt suicide daily.  Over 14% of high school students admit to having considered it.

As parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, and mentors of every sort, it is up to us to equip our children to deal with this barrage of insults, lies, and pain.

Reasons Not to Commit Suicide

The website Notes from the Recovering Self-Harmer provides a list of 40 reasons not to commit suicide [5].  Among them are the fact that suicide is final, the hope that things will get better, music, smiles, laughter, chocolate, and sunrises.

More even than these, the love of family, friends, and – above all else – God should anchor us.  But not all children have those to rely on.  When there is abuse (emotional/physical/sexual) or neglect in the home, the image of God can be greatly distorted. Continue reading

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Filed under bullying, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse

Facing Off with Giants

WARNING: Graphic Images

  • Imagine yourself a young child – boy or girl – perhaps 4-6 years of age. You are innocent, tender. You stand less than 4 feet tall, weigh less than 50 lb…the size of a 17 month old striped bass. Despite that you are struck, slapped, and beaten with a belt. You have bottles thrown at your head, and cigarettes put out on your back. The adults at home alternately rage at you for breathing and forget to feed you.
  • Imagine yourself a 13 y.o. girl. You stand just over 5 feet tall, weigh just under 100 lb. Your body has started to change. You are alternately puzzled, proud, and self-conscious about this. Your stepfather has noticed, as well. Assuming he is of average build, he has a 10” height and 95 lb weight advantage over you. And he is a grown man.

Defenseless

Children regularly face off with giants.

Unlike adults, children have no authority; no way to force their will on an adult, and no real way to defend themselves. Children have no training in military tactics, no training in marshall arts. Apart from their own violation, they have no knowledge of seduction.

Impact of Trauma

When the adults whom children love and trust are the ones inflicting harm on them (or on one another), children experience intense physical and emotional reactions.

A. Pre-Schoolers

Broadly speaking, pre-schoolers will feel distress, and overwhelming helplessness in such situations. It is a mistake to assume a young child will not recall traumatic events.

B. School Age Children

School age children may believe they failed to assist a parent against whom violence is perpetrated, as if they could somehow have prevented the harm. Sexual molestation occurs at the highest rate among children in this age category. Easy targets for predators, school age children are likely to feel confusion, guilt, and shame.

C. Teens

Teens have more developed coping skills, and a better (if still rudimentary) understanding of what is taking place when abuse occurs. However, they may mistakenly see themselves as responsible for the abuse. On the positive side, teens may share the experience with one or more close friends. On the negative, they may view violence or self-harm as viable options. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women