Monday, March 18th, 2013
This post was written by a member of the Parents team who, for reasons she shares below, wants to remain anonymous.
Many people think of child abuse as a problem unique to underprivileged kids. For instance, if I told you a story about a little girl who was given two black eyes, had her finger broken, and had her ponytail cut off with a pair of kitchen scissors, you might assume that she was being raised by mentally unstable parents. You might also picture her living in a small, run-down apartment in a poor neighborhood. But what if I told you that this little girl was actually the daughter of a police detective and a kindergarten teacher who were well respected in their middle-class neighborhood? What if I told you that this little girl was me?
As a child, I didn’t know that I was being abused. My parents were usually very nice to me, and only hit me when I was bad and I “deserved” it. When my 7th grade dean saw me kiss my boyfriend in the hallway, I begged her not to call my parents explaining that they would hit me. She told me that she knew my parents very well, and that I shouldn’t make up such stories. She also wasn’t alarmed when I was absent for the next two days. She knew that my parents were good people.
The truth is, my parents really are good people. Their problem was that they had been abused themselves. According to Childhelp.org, 30 percent of children who were victims of abuse and neglect will later abuse their own children, and about 80 percent of abused children will meet the criteria for at least one psychological disorder in their adult lives. As a mother now raising her own little girl, those statistics terrify me.
“Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children. The United States has the worst record in the industrialized nation – losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths,” reports Childhelp.org. And those are just the cases that are reported. Most children are confused about abuse since 80 percent of victims experience physical abuse from their parents – the people who love them the most.
My abuse ended years ago. Since then I’ve started a family of my own, and therapy helped heal my relationship with my parents, but I still feel obligated to write this anonymously. A child’s love for their parents is deeper than any wound that a parent can inflict. Our natural instinct to protect our families is the airtight seal on our painful secret. It’s the reason most children will endure abuse without protest. If I cannot speak freely about past abuse as an adult, imagine how difficult it must be for a child to speak up for himself.
The good news is that we can do something about it. I’m determined to help give a voice to the children who can’t speak up for themselves. I’ve been working with Prevent Child Abuse New York to help raise awareness about this hidden epidemic. On Sunday March 24th, I’ll be participating with my daughter and event organizer Deborah E. Peters in the Walk For Children in Brooklyn. If you are in the area you can register to walk with us at preventchildabuseny.org.
If you know a child who is being abused – even if you are the one doing the abusing – you can get confidential free help by calling the parent helpline at 1-800-CHILDREN from 9am – 10pm every single day.
Abuse harms more than just the children. It harms our families, our communities, and our nation as a whole.
Image: Concept image of child abuse, via Shutterstock