Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a little girl sitting on the furthest bench in the darkest corner, with her knees tucked under her chin and her eyes glazed with a faraway gaze, looking but not seeing her classmates running around, playing, and shrieking during recess time. The sound of laughter seems foreign to her ears, and her lips hurriedly flick up into an involuntary, tense smile every time someone looks her way. She is afraid someone will see through her mask; at the same time, she wants someone to notice; she yearns to know if someone cares.
Now open your eyes. You don’t need to continue imagining, because this is the reality that many people face today. Darkness is all they know, and sadness is all they feel. They have been abused to the point where they feel that they don’t even deserve love.
WHAT IS ABUSE?
Abuse is defined as the violent and cruel treatment of any individual or life form. It is not confined to the physical sense, for it often involves mistreatment in terms of mental aspects as well. Abuse can be anything which threatens, harms, controls, or intimidates an individual. The key to this is using the victim’s vulnerability by exploiting their trust, dependency, and/or love (1).
Physical abuse is the intentional infliction of bodily injury upon the victim. Psychological abuse involves the use of emotional blackmail, guilt-shaming, and other comparable actions that can result in the victim experiencing emotions such as stress, anxiety, intense depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or a combination of said events. Financial abuse is the forced control of one’s financial assets in the hands of another, typically an intimate partner, forcing the victim to depend on the manipulator for all their needs. The last prominent example of abuse is sexual, where the victim’s body is exploited by the perpetrator in intimate ways, without the victim’s enthusiastic consent. More often than not, abuse is not a one-time thing (1).
For children, abuse can comprise of neglect. Latch-key kids, or kids who let themselves in, often don’t get the proper love and guidance they need to thrive and become the best people they could be. This could be coupled with inadequate physical care, such as an insufficient level of nutritional guidance and provision, as well as clothing and proper, sanitary and comfortable area of residence. This lack of adult supervision can have lifelong consequences including deviance from societal norms (refer to the Social Control theory, where attachment is one of the four key aspects of containment from deviance) and crime. Finally, physical and sexual abuse are types of abuse that could be practiced in a household (2).
Emotional abandonment is as grave a crime as a physical one. According to psychologists, children need love and maternal contact even more than they need means of sustenance, as an experiment with a simian (primate). One traumatic experience, such as a rape event, can harm an individual emotionally or psychologically for a lifetime.
A summation of all these experience indeed exhibits a synergistic effect, but not in a good way. Someone may be afraid to make mistakes, which results in a phobia and low self esteem, plus overly-cautiousness and perhaps paranoia. Someone can feel like it is wrong to show their feelings, which can result in a suppression of emotion, which leads to anger issues, health issues like hypertension (high blood pressure), and depression. An undermining of accomplishments adds to the low self esteem as well, such as when a child feels like he or she cannot possibly live up to the expectations of those around them, such as parents. This can result in them feeling like a disappointment and burden, which can lead to so many mental conditions, the foremost being depression and anxiety (2).
All in all, while an event of abuse or abandonment can be for a limited period of time, or even a one-time thing, its effects are far-reaching. The emotional wound outlasts by far the physical injuries, and this can turn a person into someone with depression, anger issues, or health issues regarding the same. Statistics have shown that abusive people are more likely to become abusive, which results in an act of abuse or abandonment leading to a domino effect that can be intergenerational and far-reaching in its consequences. Thus, the emotional repercussions of even a one-time event should not be downplayed or discounted, and the way to combat this problem is prevention of harm for the safe, and treatment of the victims with patience and love.
- “What Is Abuse? | Herizon House.” Herizon House – The First Step towards Hope, http://www.herizonhouse.com/about/what-is-abuse/.
- “Understanding the Pain of Abandonment.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-many-faces-addiction/201006/understanding-the-pain-abandonment.