|5 Ways to Heal the Wounds of Child Abuse by guest author: Rebecca Gray|
The problem is enormous
Child abuse can be an act of commission or omission. It comes in many forms: physical abuse such as beating, burning, shaking or other types of violent assault; sexual abuse; emotional or psychological abuse; and neglect. Many children are victims of more than one type of abuse at the hands of parents or other relatives, caretakers, teachers, doctors, clergy, or family friends. The events are often exacerbated because the abuser makes the child feel as if he or she is to blame for the abuse. Abused children are shamed and sometimes threatened with dire consequences should they report the abuse.
Public awareness about child abuse is more widespread than ever, and children today have more rights fighting abuse than they did in previous generations (at least in many Western societies, including the U.S.). Unfortunately, even in affluent Western countries, child abuse occurs at an unacceptably high rate. And in some parts of the world, various forms of child abuse are still accepted as perfectly normal. Child trafficking (for sexual purposes, slavery, illegal adoptions, etc.); child labor; child marriages and other forms of abuse are still prevalent worldwide.
Five ways to help
It is our collective responsibility to do everything in our power to help heal the wounds of child abuse. We can offer support and encouragement, and we can help victims find appropriate resources for additional assistance.
1. Create a safe and non-judgmental environment for the victim to open up about the abuse. Creating a safe place for an abuse victim to tell what happened, and to express his or her feelings about the abuse is essential for fostering healing. It is very important for you to understand from the victim’s perspective exactly what happened, and to do this you need to listen without judging. For abuse victims, it is equally important to understand exactly what happened and move away from self-judgment.
2. Help the victim understand that the fault lies strictly with the abuser. Many abusers compound the impact on children by making victims feel as if they are to blame for the beatings, sexual violations, or other abusive behaviors. When sexual abuse occurs, unhealthy societal attitudes about sexuality can add to the shame and guilt. Regardless of the type of abuse, the victim needs to understand above all that the abuse was not his or her fault.
3. Help the victim understand that the abuse was something that happened to him or her, but it does not define him or her. Good or bad, our experiences shape us, but they are not the essence of who we are. A victim of child abuse needs to understand that no matter how terrible the abuse was, it is something that can be overcome, and need not define a victim's outlook forever. Young children may have trouble understanding this truth, but adolescents and adults are better equipped to accept that there is a road to healing.
4. Help the victim understand that healing doesn’t happen overnight. Healing is a process, sometimes a lifelong process, and some victims take longer than others to heal. And although victims should never be encouraged to spend a lifetime wallowing in their misery, those around them need to understand that some wounds heal very slowly. An important thing for victims to accept is that with perseverance and commitment to moving beyond abuse, healing will happen. Some victims find that ultimately forgiving their abusers completes the healing process, but forgiveness should always be on the victim’s terms. Moreover, victims and supporters must recognize the difference between forgiveness and rationalization, which can often serve to excuse or enable abusers.
5. Help the victim find appropriate resources for further assistance. Victims of abuse have ongoing needs, beyond escaping abusive environments. Medical care, psychological counseling, and legal help bringing abusers to justice are only part of the big picture for victims of abuse. You can’t solve all of the victim’s problems by yourself, but you can help victims find the assistance they need. And if you are a victim yourself, don’t suffer in silence - help is there for those who reach out for it
Here is a helpful guideline for dealing with children of different ages who have either been abused or have observed violence on a regular basis.
The wounds of child abuse are deep, but we must never underestimate the power of patience, compassion, and empathy to help victims heal.
Rebecca Gray is a freelance blogger and an information security specialist for Backgroundchecks.org. Though she specializes on issues involving tech, security, and criminal justice, Rebecca also writes about domestic violence and child abuse. She welcomes your comments at her email id: GrayRebecca14@gmail.com