Yesterday, I posted about grieving about missing my siblings, and have gotten a tremendous response from from absolute strangers. Thank you, everybody, for your kind words. Words are so helpful, and will carry me through the third anniversary of being disowned. And if you're the praying type, I do appreciate the prayers for the little ones, and I hope you're also praying for children enduring any kind of abuse.
I just wanted to follow up on that with a quick post on the different types of abuse.
The most common type of abuse that we think of when we hear the phrase, "child abuse" is physical and sexual abuse. Sometimes we think about neglect. There's stories in newspapers around the world about children dying because of physical abuse and neglect, or people working hard to move past the trauma of sexual abuse. As Mary Tyler Mom says, "kraft och omtanke" to them all.
But there are other kinds of abuse that aren't quite as obvious. Psychological and verbal abuse, specifically. The definition of psychological abuse is kind of nebulous--but it generally includes mental and verbal abuse.
Psychological abuse is insidious because it fucks with your perception of what is normal, and what isn't, especially for children. To use a visual example, it's like your parent telling you that the sky is green when it's blue, and if you don't agree with your parent, then you will get punished until you agree that yes, the sky is green.
Emotional abuse is huge. Especially denying. I know that my dad said that, on a couple of occasions, if I didn't obey him he would put me out on the street where I would be raped. If I were to ask him about that now, he would probably deny it or minimize it. When I first told him I had depression, back in my senior year of high school, he told me I was a spoiled brat, too big for my britches, I had no reason to be depressed, and that if I wanted treatment, it's usually medicine that causes people to have suicide, and he wouldn't pay for any of it, nor let me use health insurance to help pay for it. Later, when I tried to talk with my mom about it, she barely acknowledged it happened. It makes you doubt your own sanity.
Verbal abuse is slightly more obvious. It's the most common tool of bullies. Name calling, telling them they're worthless. "You're a spoiled brat." "Damn you to hell, Holly." Words do hurt. It's like when my dad became very angry and yelled and ranted and spanked my little brother Tommy, grabbing him by his arm and forcibly moving him around, because he wouldn't talk very much at a Boy Scouts meeting. He told him he was spoiled, he was stupid, and it makes him (dad) look stupid to have a stupid son.
I stood up for Tommy. I was shaking with fear, expecting dad to go after me next, wondering if this would be the time he actually did kick me out. I told him that those Boy Scouts meetings are really noisy and loud, and it's really hard to hear, to pick out one voice, when you have hearing aids. And I knew exactly how Tommy felt. Shared kinship through deafness. When you're deaf, you don't want to misunderstand the speaker and then say something non-sequiter in reply. Just a made up example: "Hey, Tommy, are you enjoying this activity?" "I like watermelon." See--we don't want to come across as stupid. We're scared of misunderstanding people. And I told dad that. But dad just yelled at me and told me that no, Tommy is a spoiled brat. Poor Tommy was grounded for a week or two, with extra chores, extra meaningless tasks, no TV, no fun besides homeschool and chores.
So. these are just example stories, of example types of abuse. It is so invisible, and it was imperative to put on a good face for the public. We couldn't bring shame to the family, so we smiled and pretended everything was hunky dory. I always imagined sneaking out of the house to run away and run to the parish rectory nearby, and tell it all to Fr, and ask him to try to make my dad less abusive. Yet, I never did, for fear of not being believed.
When I first started talking about it, when relatives asked me what had happened after I got disowned, they were disbelieving. Some did believe me, and some had suspected as much. But others tried to excuse it. I don't blame them. It's easier to pretend it didn't happen.
So, I ask of you all, if you suspect abuse, call CPS. If a child comes to you asking for help, please, don't deny or minimize what happened/is happening. Schools often have counselors to help the child talk it through. Be a steady, reassuring presence in the child's life, if you can.