Google+ Authentic Parenting: Don't Give Child Abuse The Silent Treatment

Monday, October 18, 2010

Don't Give Child Abuse The Silent Treatment

This might prove to be a difficult article for me to write... It has been on my (extremely long) to-write list for a while now, and I think I should just get it out and see where it goes.

When I was about twelve, my father punched me a black eye. I have forgotten (repressed) the event, but have vague recollection of it and I distinctly know that my mom kept me from school. There must have been other episodes like this. Enough for my chiropractor to notice (I was receiving treatment for what we assumed to be growth pains, but later turned out early signs of my Bechterew), and contact my mother about the bruises I kept showing up with. Of course I wasn't there when they talked to my mom, but I bet she said there was no problem or it was only a one time thing or... Anyway, nothing came of it.

At school, nobody noticed, since my mom kept me off school, until one day I wrote the first chapters of a book and had a teacher - who I liked and trusted - proofread. The story talked about a girl whose father was on the road as a sales manager and she got beaten... My teacher asked me if there was any autobiography in this story and of course I said it wasn't so. Nothing came of it.

One day, after a long conversation with a friend - I must have been 13 at the time - I gathered all my courage and went to the police. I told them I wanted to report child abuse. They told me the person responsible of that department wasn't there. I never had the courage to go back. Nothing came of it.

Much later - I think I was almost 16 by then - I slept over at a friends house and her parents touched my arm when I came in. I cringed and squeeked and they found my arm covered in bruises (I had placed a tin of sardines on the table instead of getting them out on a plate - this I do remember). Again, they contacted my mother and I don't know what was said. Nothing came off it.

Our family doctor(s) all knew I grinded my teeth, I bit my nails until they bled, had severe stomach problems, migraines, depressive episodes. They sent me to do tests and then some. They prescribed antidepressants. They ended up deeming everything psychosomatic. Nothing came of it. Strangely, all these symptoms dissapeared once I went to university and after a while even the depressive episodes vanished.

A lot of the time during my teens, I wondered if I made it all up (I didn't, don't worry). Maybe I did 'bring it on myself' as my mom used to say. Maybe I should 'be smarter' as she says. Maybe it wasn't that bad, really, was it?

But of course I was abused. No child 'deserves' to be treated this way. No parent should behave this way towards their children. Period.

Image: Quinn Anya on Flickr

What I wanted to say in this article is that confronting parents when you suspect child abuse is generally not the way to go. When a child is physically abused, most often both parents know and will cover for each other (we'll leave the reasons for this behavior in the middle). Even confronting the child proves difficult, because that child will probably feel shame, and guilt and will not want to talk about this, might want to protect the perpetrator and the family. The child might not see any decent outcome ('till this day I do not see how it could have been changed - or how it could still change).
One could argue that reporting child abuse would put an unnecessary strain on parents who are wrongfully accused, but what if it saves some?



  1. Thank you for writing this. This needs to be said more and MUCH LOUDER!

  2. So sorry to hear about the violence in your past. The silent treatment of your mother made it even worse!
    Mothers should not allow it at all!!

    We should not be ashamed of telling and talking about it when we are affected! It is NEVER EVER our mistake that causes the perpetrators to react the way they do!

  3. I'm sorry you went through this.

    I also was abused (not by my parents) and adults and other children that knew about it did nothing.

    Thank you for writing about it. In the US we love movies where some monster abuses kids in really drastic, iconic ways, and gets caught (or killed). In real life there are all sorts of abuses, small to horrific, happening all the time... and those in the know are all too scared/unsure to do anything. It's pathetic.

  4. Thank you for being brave enough to share this story. I completely agree with you that it's better to report than worry about embarrassing or troubling innocent parents. When I was a child, my mother used corporal punishment and often reacted out of anger. She slapped and hit and often used a yardstick to "spank." I would say it wasn't really abuse, but it certainly wasn't an affective means of dealing with children - especially since it often came out of anger. It also continued on much longer than it ought to have; until I was brave enough in eighth grade to show the hand-print bruise on my leg to a teacher. The teacher reported it and an investigation occurred and the best possible outcome came from it: we stayed at home, but my mother never used corporal punishment again. She's probably a good example of what most people would consider normal and non-abusive, the type of parent reporters worry about offending. And yes, my mother was embarrassed and mad, but it made the world of difference to us kids.


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