Broken Homes – The Lasting Effects of an Abusive Childhood.

“Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhood.”

-Pam Leo

Abuse comes in various forms – the most common being the corrosive triad of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Sometimes they occur in tandem, and the damage they cause can be immense, oftentimes even irreversible.

At other times they might occur individually, affecting each individual in a different yet equally destructive way. With the proper help and support from close friends and family, some people can overcome the trauma of it and move on. Others are not so lucky, destined to be caught in the web of childhood horrors all their lives.

The greatest horror of child abuse, apart from the obvious, is that it most often originates in the home itself. It is the child’s parents and guardians – the very people who the child trust and rely on unconditionally – that usually perpetuate the abuse, making the child feel trapped and helpless beyond measure. When you are bullied at school, you run home to your mother and father. But who do you run to when those supposed to protect you are the very people doing the bullying? Hell! Who would even believe you?

Many child abuse victims often stay silent for fear of being disbelieved, their pain dismissed as silly or childish, or maybe even outright being called a liar. Society has this innate faith in parents – the (often irrational) belief that no parent can knowingly or maliciously hurt their own child. Considering the number of newborns abandoned in our dumpsters every day, there is really no logical basis for this belief. Yet, there it is, perhaps for the simple reason that we need something to believe in, as a society – and a mother’s love seems like the safest bet in a world full of external dangers.

Indian society has this weird yet very strong belief that all problems can be magically solved by a) marriage and b) offspring production. In my own family, I have heard that a clinically depressed woman would ‘get better’ if only she had a child.

Umm, no?!

Ever heard of post-natal depression?

Not only would she not get better, but she’d also probably get much worse. And a clinically depressed mother (through no fault of her own) would certainly not make for an ideal guardian of a newborn baby. It would only perpetuate a never-ending cycle of misery and neglect for everyone involved.

So society as a whole is just as responsible for the widespread child abuse we see around us. Being childless in this society is seen as almost a crime, a punishment from the Gods, a challenge against nature. The thing is – not having a child is not a crime. Having one and then neglecting or abusing them is. The only thing we achieve by forcing obviously unwilling individuals to marry and produce more children is a self-perpetuating vicious circle of abuse, anger and hatred; a litany of broken homes and shattered dreams.

Children from abusive families often feel left out of their friend circles and peer groups – as most assume that their struggles are unique, incomprehensible to anyone else. In some cases, this might even be true, but in a bid to fit in, to be accepted at least somewhere, they often lie about their experiences, creating a veneer of happiness and normalcy. In the long run, this isolates them even more from the very people who could have lent them help and support.

The children of abusive parents often become compulsive people who never develop the confidence to give their own opinions or disagree with anyone else due to their early experiences.

Psychological abuse can be insidious, making the victim truly believe that he himself is responsible for the abuse being meted out to him. This can have a particularly damaging effect on children, who have not yet developed the faculties to understand their problems’ true cause. They might spend their whole lives believing that they deserve neither love nor affection from anyone, as their own parents refused to give it to them. A child instinctively loves and trusts his or her primary caregiver, whoever that might be. The realisation that love is neither returned nor appreciated can be life-shattering for a sensitive child, making them completely shut out the world.

More than anything else, victims of child abuse need to feel understood; that there is someone out there who believes them and understands their pain. That they would not simply be laughed off the moment, they try to open up about their problems or be accused of lying. That knowledge in itself can be half the solution. It is immensely empowering, after all, to know that there is someone out there who can hear your cries.

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