Break the Silence for the Victims of Child Abuse

victims of child abuse

‘Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.’ – Thomas Jefferson 

Many victims of child abuse keep their suffering a secret because they feel ashamed and afraid… most of them continue to suffer long after they have survived their abusive experience. They have terrifying nightmares that make them wake up shaking and disoriented in the middle of the night. They live in constant fear that their past may become reality again.

Victims of child abuse may continue to live that way if no one will help them ‘break the silence’! Erin Merryn is just one of the many survivors of child sexual abuse; she is responsible for the legislation of Erin’s law – this requires public schools to educate students about sexual abuse prevention. Erin’s goal is to encourage other victims of child abuse to speak up….to break their silence!

The force behind Erin’s law has helped others to come out and speak up about their abusive experiences… here are some of the stories of people who are just like Erin Merryn.

The Story of Ter-rae Lee

Ter-rae Lee is a survivor of child sexual abuse; she had been abused by her own father from ages 11 to 13. An article that she read from Seventeen Magazine encouraged her to speak up about her experience and tell her mother. Through the help of RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), she began her recovery and was able to gain a confession from her father. Today, her father is serving time in prison – which makes Ter-rae feel safe after a long, long time. Ter-rae wants to encourage other victims of child abuse to break their silence and obtain justice for their abusive experience; ‘When you tell your story, you will feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. There’s always light after the dark, and one day you might be able to help someone by talking about what happened.’

The Story of David Moody

David Moody is one of the victims of child abuse; it took him a while before he spoke up about his abusive experience. He struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety before he decided to tell his wife about the male babysitter who molested him when he was 9 to 10 years old. After getting the counseling that he needed, David is now comfortable talking about his experience. ‘I was like a pressure cooker that had a valve released. I didn’t know how tight I had been wound up until I said the words out loud’. Today, David wants to help others learn about child sexual abuse and encourage survivors to share their experience. ‘It is an emotional freedom, to finally know that it was not my fault; that I am strong and that I deserve to be happy. It is a clearness like nothing I have ever experienced until now’.

The Story of Kathleen Frank

Kathleen Frank was abused by her father at the age of 10 years old. At least that is the age she woke up to it; Kathleen’s father abused her while she was sleeping.  But later in her years Kathleen started getting flash backs of times when her father was ‘too close’ and certain touches were uncomfortable for her. Shortly after Kathleen was realized she was being abused, she became this target of others who also abused her, such as her great grandfather, cousins and her brother. Kathleen told her mother, but her mother refused to believe her.  Perhaps her mother did believe Kathleen but was in denial, in any case Kathleen did not get the protection she needed and felt she had to find ways to protect herself. This is when Kathleen became assertive in her attitude, angry with her abusers, and eventually developed the mind set that the only way someone will love her is to give them what they want. This attitude caused Kathleen to turn toward young men of at least 8 to 20 years older than her for attention and love in the wrong way. Kathleen had a warped perspective on what love was, and it wasn’t until she was in her later 30’s when she realized how much she needed help. Kathleen sought help, she sought God, it was her way to get a right perspective on love and to know the unconditional love of Christ. Kathleen’s started journaling her feelings and her revelations of the healing process. After 10 years of writing her thoughts, her fears, her healing, Kathleen published her journals in her recent book, ‘I’m Fat and Nobody Cares’. Kathleen’s book tells the world her story in detail in hopes to help others who have had similar experiences. Kathleen was able to receive complete healing of her abuse through her writings and her book has helped thousands of abused women and girls receive healing too.

 

Be the Voice of Victims of Child Abuse

According to surveys, about one in ten children suffer from child sexual abuse before they turn 18. In order to help put a stop to this social problem, you must ‘be the voice’ of victims of child abuse. You can do this by helping promote education, awareness and advance the conversation about this issue. Get in touch with abuse prevention organizations in your area, especially if you know someone who is suffering from child sexual abuse.

By simply speaking up, you can help save the life of a child abuse victim; offer useful information about where people can turn to for help if needed. Help empower people and organizations to prevent child sexual abuse all over the world; help create a safe environment for children where abuse does not exist. If you make it one of your priorities to help, nothing is impossible!

What is Incest?

incest

Incest is defined as having a sexual relationship with people who are too closely related to you – by law, you are not allowed to marry these people; it is the serious crime having sexual acts with a parent, child, sibling or grandchild. About 23 percent of all sexual abuse cases in the world are incest and the most commonly reported involves a father-daughter relationship.

Sexual contact typically does not happen when the daughter is still young; intercourse usually takes place when the child is past 12. According to reports, alcohol is one of the biggest factors behind these sexual abuse cases – about 20 to 50 percent of abusive fathers are alcoholics.

Cases of brother-sister incest are also very common; it usually happens within families that suffer from serious problems. Healthy and happy families exhibit affection with each other. However, it should be remembered that affection is very different from ‘sexual stimulation’.

What is Incest Taboo?

This cultural taboo is prevalent in today’s society and many past societies. Modern societies have already established laws and restrictions against closely consanguineous marriages (related by blood). Some societies even extend the taboo to people who are not related by blood such as milk-siblings, step siblings and adoptive siblings; relationships between third-degree relatives such as half-aunt and first cousin, are also viewed differently in some cultures – most cultures discourage it.

The most common reason behind incest taboo is the impact inbreeding has on the offspring of incestuous relationships. Close genetic relationships usually produce children who have high risk of congenital disorder, disability and even death. Unintended incest sexual relationship may also occur because of sperm donation, surrogacy and adoption – people are uncertain or clueless about their biological relationship to others.

Types of Incest

  • Between an adult and a child. This is considered as child sexual abuse and is the most commonly reported case of incest. However, the prevalence of this type is quite difficult to assess because most victims keep it as a secret. Moreover, reports show that this form of child abuse is more likely to happen between stepfather and daughter as compared to biological father and daughter. Some of the most ‘common features’ that lead to the occurrence of incest include extreme paternal dominance, reassignment of mother responsibilities to the daughter and an estrange relationship between mother and daughter.
  • Between consenting adults. The most common reason for this occurrence is the ‘genetic sexual attraction’ between the two adults. Although not so many cases of this incest have been reported, some evidences point to its occurrence; technological advances such as chat rooms and other websites have fostered the occurrence of incestuous relationships today.
  • Cousin relationships. Marriages and sexual relationships that occur between first cousins are tolerated in some areas of the world. However, it is still considered as incest and is strongly discouraged by many cultures. Although the occurrence is very rare, it is indeed present in some communities – in Pakistan, marriages between cousins are encouraged to ensure the purity of descent line and that patrimony will not pass into ‘outsiders’.
  • Aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. In some cultures, marriages among aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews are considered legal. However, in the case of the Dutch, they must seek the consent of the Dutch government first because of the risk of inbreeding defects. Consensual intercourse between adults is tolerated in Netherlands and Belgium but is seriously punished in the US such as in Florida and other US States.

Common Reasons Behind Molestation

child molestation

What is Molestation?

The legal definition of molestation is the crime of sexual acts with children up to the age of eighteen. Sexual acts include the touching of private parts, taking pornographic photos and forced exposure of the genitalia. Pedophiles may perform a variation of the following acts to their victims and such sexual acts may also occur as incest – when a relative abuses a younger or minor member of the family. Molestation is any unwelcome sexual act that fall short of rape.

What Causes Someone to Molest?

It has been an ongoing issue to find out the reasons why someone can possibly molest a child. The following are four broad categories that may classify an abuser:

  1. Abusers are children or teenagers who are sexually misguided and may result to experimenting. Children who reach puberty become sexually curious and they usually lure much younger children to take off their clothes just to satisfy their curiosity. Although most teenage experimenters, as they grow older, stop their sexual interactions with children, some are further misguided and turn into pedophiles.
  1. Abusers may have a medical or mental condition that needs proper treatment. Some sexual abusers suffer from mental disability and/or brain disorder which lead them to sexually touch children. Their family members must have a close eye on them in order to prevent molestation from taking place; they should also take their medications, if there are any, to stop child abusers from this group with what they are doing.
  1. Many abusers have antisocial disorder; they lack feelings and would like to inflict pain on others – Opportunists. Antisocial individuals are people who feel that the rules of society do not apply to them. These individuals are actively social and may even have lots of friends, but they always break many of society’s rules. They lack feelings for others and live with the belief that everyone around them exists to be used, including children. Child abusers that belong in this group are often involved in the most terrifying situations that you witness on television and the news.
  1. Abusers have an ongoing sex drive that is directed toward children. Child abusers who belong in this group are commonly referred to as pedophiles. Only a sex-specific physician or therapist can identify this ongoing sex drive among people who have pedophilia disorder. Sex drive that is directed toward children may be corrected by sex-specific therapies and medication. But according to researches, only 87 percent of such treatments are effective. People who are diagnosed with pedophilia disorder have the following traits:
  • Pedophiles are sexually aroused and have intense, recurring sexual fantasies that involve children (13 years and younger).
  • Pedophiles are aroused by or have sexual fantasies including a child for at least 6 months.
  • Pedophiles are 16 years of age an older.
  • Pedophiles are 5+ years older than his or her victim.

 

Daniel is an ideal example of someone who has pedophilia disorder; he has been molesting children for over 26 years. He is past 16 years old and he’s been having sexual desires toward children that are 5 years younger than him. His first victim was his stepsister, Chloe, a 10 year old girl. He was 13 years old when he started having sexual fantasies that involve young girls. He also started to develop a sexual desire for Chloe when she came to visit one weekend every month. Daniel’s fantasies continued until he was 17, when he first molested Chloe.

Sadly there are many Daniels in this world, and many of them are never caught because their victims never tell. The victims keep their silence in fear and shame; they grow up never getting the help they need to overcome their trauma.

Starting Over From A Shattered Life

shattered life

‘God promises to make something good out of the storms that bring devastation to your life’ – Romans 8:28

 

This is a story of Cindy… She had to start over from a shattered life that was caused by a myriad of problems. Cindy suffered from a major breakdown around twelve years ago… she lost at least eight loved ones in just one year; her mother died, she lost her kids in a parasailing accident and her dad was suffering from bone cancer. Everything that was happening in Cindy’s life at that time made her feel lost and shattered.

Cindy felt frightened and confused. She was on the brink of suffering from extreme depression and she felt that her life no longer had a purpose. She did not know how she was going to move forward… after facing so much lost, she just wanted to wallow in her grief and she allowed her pain overtake her.

Until one day, she realized that her suffering could do two things to her: propel her toward hope or lead her to complete destruction. Cindy knew the choice was in her hands… with God as her companion, Cindy chose to use her pain and turn it around for her good. She wasn’t a superhero, she just realized that life has opportunities there is good to come from bad and it shouldn’t be wasted.

Many of us may find ourselves relating to Cindy’s story; anyone who ever felt that their dreams are shattered and that their expectations are unmet will understand what Cindy went through. And when our lives feel like it’s out of control, it is difficult to look on the bright side – we are unable to see the bigger picture that God has in store for us.

Four Tips for Recovering From a Shattered Life

  • Everything happens for a reason. Everything that happens in our life is perceived in the meaning that we choose to give it; it is up to us to make an event either empowering or the other way around. It is our job to seek the lesson in every incident and learn from it. Life’s issues are a test, we can choose to pass it or fail it. When we pass the test is when we have a testimony!
  • Pain is inevitable, but to wallow in it is a choice. Suffering is a choice. Nothing lasts forever, including our pain. There is nothing wrong in experiencing our pain – what’s wrong is that if we choose to live with it forever. We must move on and avoid creating unnecessary mental anguish around every situation that we encounter.
  • Live in the current moment and deal with it. The current moment in our lives is the only moment that we need to deal with. It is our reality and we owe it our full attention. Once that reality is over, we need to move on to the next phase and work on becoming the person that we see ourselves to be.
  • Take one day at a time. Life is beautiful – it is the greatest gift that God has given to us and we shouldn’t waste it. Go outside and breathe the fresh air, laugh out loud with your friends, eat nourishing food and spend quality time with your loved ones. Do everything that you can today and avoid procrastination. Being in pain may hurt much that often one fails to appreciate the simple joys of life, but if you live one day at a time then you can find your way slowly moving on again.

Investing In Something Meaningful

Getting hurt is something that may be difficult to move on from… but it is not impossible! Suffering from a tragic experience can be turned into something redemptive. Cindy used her experience to help others by becoming a therapist, John Walsh created the television show ‘America’s Most Wanted’ after his son was abducted to help law enforcement agencies catch criminals, Kathy Sisk who was repeatedly molested; starting with her father, is a world-renowned speaker and author who carries God’s message of forgiveness, acceptance and love through her writings.

Give yourself time to heal. Do not be in a rush to move on from your pain or adversity – do not minimize your healing process. However, when the right time comes you have to recognize it; appreciate the opportunities that lie ahead of your life. Always remember that your story isn’t finished yet!

Overcome Shame After A Traumatic Experience

overcome shame

Learning how to love oneself is quite difficult for abused victims and traumatic survivors, especially in the early stages of healing. Abuse often produces shame because victims tend to blame themselves for what happened; they begin to believe that they are broken, unworthy, stupid and ugly. This blog post will talk about how abuse victims may overcome shame and self-blame after a traumatic experience.

Victims of abuse usually develop the sense of ‘being bad’ – they may try to hurt other people, commit suicide and/or develop bad habits such as substance abuse and alcoholism. Many trauma survivors have expressed that they feel mentally and spiritually violated and therefore feels ashamed; they lose their self-confidence and eventually fail to function socially.

One of the core effects of trauma is to the person’s developing sense of self, especially if the abuse took place at a young age. People who suffered from childhood abuse in the hands of primary caretakers or trusted figures, often neglect to grow as an adult because they continue to blame themselves for what happened. They fail to overcome shame and self-blame because of several factors and the following are some common examples:

  • Naturally, abuse causes feeling of humiliation, dehumanization and fear. It is a natural reaction for a survivor of such experiences to feel ashamed.
  • Survivors may develop the illusion of control – they believe that they are to blame for the abuse; that they are in control of the situation. They are unable to accept that they are powerless in the face of their adult abusers.
  • Many victims of childhood abuse are told directly and repeatedly that what happened to them is their fault; this gets internalized over and over in their minds as adults which deeply affect their self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Victims who were abused by their family members tend to protect their abusers, which makes them resort to self-blame and an unhealthy co-dependency.

These are just some of the reasons why abused victims fail to overcome shame and self-blame; they continue to carry a long-term legacy of embarrassment and self-loathing.

Self-Compassion May Help Overcome Shame from Abuse

‘Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.’ – Anais Nin

Every victim of abuse and neglect knows about the feeling of shame; survivors of childhood abuse blame themselves for the physical, verbal and emotional abuse that they’ve undergone. Victims of sexual abuse tend to suffer the most shame – they believe that they have ‘enticed’ their abusers by the way they dress and behave and they may also feel guilty for feeling some physical pleasure during the assault.

Abuse creates change in the victim’s way of being; they become a different person not just because they experienced tremendous trauma but also because they feel that they have lost their innocence and dignity. Their feeling of shame continues as they fail to seek the proper treatment for what they’ve been through. Many survivors of abuse do things to hurt themselves while others resort to abusing alcohol and/or drugs, breaking the law and having multiple sexual partners.

Shame can affect literally all aspects of a person’s well being. It can affect their self-confidence, work performance, way of thinking, body image, socialization and many more.  Shame can also be the cause of many life problems and it almost always manifests into other feelings. Self-compassion may help overcome shame and self-blame caused by traumatic experiences. Having the right support and getting the proper treatment may help the healing process of anyone who is abused; kindness, support, encouragement and compassion from family and friends have a huge impact on the victim’s recovery.

Self-compassion is essential to overcome shame and self-blame; learn to extend compassion to yourself especially in times of general suffering and inadequacy. Self-compassion may have a positive effect on overcoming depression, anxiety and any feelings of stress. It may also facilitate resilience and control your reactions when caught in negative situations, especially situations that may remind you of your abusive experience.

Deep Spiritual Healing for the Abused

spiritual healing

Spiritual healing is often overlooked by many as they focus on healing physically, emotionally and psychologically; very few understand that spiritual healing is essential for the complete recovery of the abused from their traumatic experience.  On this post, we are going to read about the story of Elaine… a girl who witnessed evil at an early age in the form of her father. Elaine is just one of the many individuals who have undergone divine healing and gradual transformation. As she journeys through life, her pain is mended and her spirit is set free!

Elaine’s mother whispered to her to hide under the bed… she did as she was told and slowly peeked through the sheet from under the bed. She saw her father roughly dragging her mother out from the bedroom – a familiar scene, yet still painful every time she witnesses it. Elaine wished she could save her mother.

The other children in school never invited Elaine to come over and play; some even talked behind her back and called her ‘the daughter of evil’. Elaine’s father had quite a reputation – he was involved in gambling, corruption and stealing. Everyone in their neighborhood feared her father and did nothing whenever her mother was publicly violated.

Until one day, eleven-year old Elaine was forced to drive her mother to the hospital because she incurred a gunshot. The neighbors witnessed this and many other tragic circumstances, but they never helped because of fear. One afternoon, a pastor who happened to coach Elaine’s father in basketball during earlier years asked if he could have the young girl join a Bible School Vacation. Although reluctant, Elaine’s father agreed.

Later that day, Elaine’s father told her and her mother about the pastor’s invitation. He pointed a loaded gun at Elaine while stating ‘If you tell anyone secrets at that church, I will kill your mother’. Elaine knew her father meant every word and she felt deeply threatened.

On her first day to join Bible School, Elaine excitedly hopped of the bus and quietly stood in front of the church. Tears started to flow down her face for some inexplicable reason; the pastor waited and then softly whispered to her, ‘Elaine, always remember that Jesus loves you’. He grasped Elaine’s hand and led her to the church doors where children could be heard singing ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’. Years later, Elaine healed and set free has never forgotten these words; it still touches her heart and soul.

Spiritual Healing Depends on Several Factors

There is hope!

For anyone who has undergone a traumatic experience, the world may seem dark and gray… However, all is not lost if the victim chooses to let God come into his or her life. There is always hope and light in God; He loves each and every one of us.

It is very important to understand that complete spiritual healing is dependent on several factors – the victim’s experiences, the degree of his or her belief and willingness to be healed, the type of therapy/counseling the person is undergoing and the time spent on inner self.

The ‘speed’ of an abused person’s healing is dependent on how he or she copes with the process; there are important factors that affect the healing process of an individual and each person has a different healing ability.

  • The person must believe in his or her own healing, despite everything that has happened.
  • The victim should learn how to trust again, especially in oneself. He or she must be able to take responsibility and manage his or her well-being. The therapist / counselor will be there to provide guidance and support, but it is the victim who knows what is best for oneself.
  • Victims should learn how to live in the present; their past wounds may resurface in the present, but it is only because so they can heal and move on from it.
  • Victims should respect their own rhythm and understand that each new step is their key to awareness.
  • In order to heal and move on from the past, the victim must release any tension or anger that he or she is feeling. They must understand that if they do not free the anger that they feel, they cannot be completely healed. Forgiveness is huge in the healing process.
  • Victims are encouraged to develop a sense of humor – to look at the bright side of life and avoid ‘overthinking’ their experience. It doesn’t mean that they should engage in denial but rather, learn and accept their vulnerability and allow personal growth after their unfortunate experience. During the process of spiritual healing, victims are encouraged to be humble and develop a positive outlook in life that is centered in God.

Healing Life’s Wounds

healing life's wounds

“We do not heal the past by dwelling there, we heal the past by living fully in the present.” – Marianne Williamson

Each and every one of us has our own cross to carry during our lifetime; to live through life unscathed from any emotional pain is a miracle. We all have our own battles to fight, own scars to endure… the difference lies on how we handle our life’s wounds – dwell on it or learn and move on from it.

My own battle began when my father molested me when I was 10 years old and my mother didn’t believe me. I felt alone and abandoned and ashamed. I was having identity issues and I felt my whole world shatter around me. It was one of those times that I suffered in silence because I felt that I have no one to turn to – I felt that no one will understand.

But after a long time of letting my life’s wounds pierce me, I decided to pick myself up. The process was not easy and it definitely did not happen overnight. I realized that I did not want to focus on the pain anymore; I wanted to become a better person so I welcomed the healing process.

Here are some tips that I want to share that might help you and other people in healing life’s wounds – choose to be happy and grow strong because life can be beautiful.

Learn to Forgive

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy; we are all going to get disappointed, let down, misunderstood and maybe even abused by our loved ones. We cannot control that… But we do have 2 choices: we can either hold on to our anger or simply forgive – forgive others and forgive ourselves. By doing so we are lifting a heavy load from our lives. I know it’s not easy and total forgiveness may take time… we have to allow time to assist us in the process of forgiveness, in the process of inner healing.

Forget and Forego

Stop going back to the hurtful experiences and try to think of how this experience has made you a better person, a stronger person. Try to stop talking about it and just move on with life. If you need to talk about it, go to someone who can help you like a therapist, a professional who knows how to walk you through the process.  Letting go will help you build a stronger character – someone who is more resilient who can bounce back from any challenge that life puts on his or her plate. Always remember that vengeance never helps solve anything; it will only deepen your wounds and you will have a hard time creating a life that you deserve. Stop believing that the world owes you an apology because it is the other way around – you owe life and you have to live it in the best way possible!

Protect Yourself

Always look after yourself because no one else will; let us protect our hearts, especially if we’ve already been through a lot of heartaches. Many of the pain that has been inflicted upon us are the result of our own naivety. There is nothing wrong about trusting people, we just have to be selective when it comes to whom we entrust our hearts to. Life’s wounds will continuously come to us as we go along, we just have to handle them in a positive way and learn from them. Challenges will make us stronger; we must believe that each wound that we incur will heal in their own time. With the right approach and attitude, in the end, our life’s wounds may be good for us.

Abuse Among Filipino Girls

abused Filipino girls and boys

Many Filipino families view their children as blessings from God; parents shower their children with unconditional love and provide everything that their child needs. Unfortunately, this is not the case in every household. Some Filipino girls and boys are not properly nurtured and attended in their homes; they are not secure and they suffer from abuse in the hands of the people who should be caring for them.

The increasing number of children who work in the streets and beg for alms is very alarming – it is the most ideal reminder that many Filipino girls and boys are neglected. In fact, many children are rushed into maturity because they are forced to work early on in their lives; they are forced to take on the roles and responsibilities of adults and to seek a better life for their families.

The number of children who are abused by their parents, relatives or complete strangers, especially Filipino girls, is also on the rise. Abuse comes in different forms for Filipino children; some suffer from physical and sexual abuse while others are sold for forced labor, trafficking or prostitution. Often, a child may be abused in more than one form – a street vendor may be physically abused and molested at home. Take for instance, the story of Mary…

Mary’s Story

Mary is now a teenager and in the care of a crisis intervention center for physically and sexually abused Filipino girls. She is a bright and courageous girl; it’s quite difficult to imagine that she went through ‘torment’ at such a young age. Mary used to live with her mother and step-father. Her mother was often physically violated by Mary’s step-father and things got worse when he started raping Mary.

Mary told her mother about the rape, but her story fell on deaf ears. She felt lost and afraid, so Mary had no choice but to continue to live with her mother and step-father. The rape continued for a number of years before her mother finally believed her. Mary was permitted by her mother to live with her aunt where she could attend school. However, her mother was unable to beg for enough money without Mary’s help.

Mary’s mother falsely accused her aunt of abusing her in an effort to get Mary back on the streets to beg for alms. A foster mother took pity on the girl and adopted her; Mary was cared for by the foster mother like she was her own. However, the foster mother got really sick which made it difficult to continue to care for Mary.

A street worker found Mary and her half-sister and referred them to the crisis intervention center. For Mary she was able to adapt well to her new structure and education given in Tahanan Santa Luisa, but unfortunately not for her half-sister who eventually ran away to resume the life she was raised in, back in the streets begging for alms.

Child Abuse as Defined by the Filipino Law

Republic Act 7610 defines child abuse as the infliction of physical or psychological injury which include but is not limited to – cruelty, neglect, exploitation and sexual abuse. There are different categories of abuse: physical, emotional and sexual. Physical abuse involves any act that results in non-accidental and/or unreasonable physical impairment of a child. Common examples are severe beating, strangulation and more.

When a child is deprived of his or her basic needs and general care, this may be considered as a case of physical neglect. Emotional abuse, on the other hand, is the infliction of non-physical harassment such as cursing and belittling. Sexual abuse usually happens among Filipino girls but it also occurs with boys; when a child is used to gratify the sexual needs and urges of an adult or any older person, it is sexual abuse. Common cases of this abuse include rape, incest, prostitution and pornography.

What is Battered Woman Syndrome?

battered woman syndrome

 

A woman who has suffered from consequential physical, emotional or sexual abuse usually develops a physical and psychological condition called battered woman syndrome. Men can also suffer from the same syndrome, but nowadays it is more prevalent in women. It is commonly used by lawyers as an explanation in court for a battered woman’s behavior of staying.

People often ask a battered woman: Why didn’t you leave? Why did you put up with your abusive partner? This syndrome is a subtype of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome); women who develop it may not show or feel all the symptoms of PTSD but they usually share the same mentalities and behaviors that a person with PTSD has.

The following are some of the most common symptoms of battered woman syndrome:

  • Victim experiences difficulty in breathing and her heart beats faster than normal; a panic attack may occur if she is asked to re-experience the abuse
  • Fight or flight. The victim ‘turns off’ her emotions and denies reality to avoid facing her fears and emotions
  • The victim may also repress the entire memory and act like it never happened
  • A battered woman often has trouble establishing interpersonal relationships with others
  • The victim has sexuality and intimacy issues

 

Second Stage Symptoms of Battered Woman Syndrome

The aforementioned symptoms are the most common shared by women who have undergone physical and verbal abuse. However, repeated cycles of abuse and reconciliation with the abuser may further affect the behavior of some battered women.

  • The victim believes that the abuse was her fault
  • The victim fears the life of her loved ones because the abuser has threatened to harm them
  • The victim develops the belief that her abuser is ‘omniscient’
  • She becomes trapped in the ‘ugly memory’; it keeps playing on her mind like a movie that she doesn’t want to see
  • She may take actions to harm herself

Causes of Battered Woman Syndrome

Researches show that battered woman syndrome is a result of a three-stage cycle that occurs in domestic violence situations; first stage – the relationship is filled with tension, second stage – the abuser releases her tension by exerting violence to his partner, third stage – the abuser attempts to reconcile with his partner. However, the tension between the abuser and the victim is still present and remains unresolved which is why the three-stage cycle is repeated over and over again.

The repetition of violence is usually the result of the abuser’s desire to be in control of the relationship; he wants to make his partner believe that she is at fault. As a result, the victim feels responsible and helpless which further leads to being depressed and passive. Once a battered woman feels this way, her thoughts are distorted and is unable to ‘collect’ the resources and support system that she needs to escape the abusive relationship.

Physiological Effects of Child Abuse

physiological effects of child abuse

Victims of abusive attacks develop the feeling of fear, confusion and anger even after their traumatic situation is over. Some of them are unable to form relationships with others and detach themselves from reality; the physiological effects of abusive acts may vary from one person to another depending on the victim’s experience and ability to cope.

Undergoing abusive attacks may cause a person to break down and develop serious mental illness such as depression, paranoia and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). If these physiological effects are not properly addressed, the victim may fall into greater physical, emotional and mental problems later on.

Mental health professionals may help a victim deal with their emotions; seeking the help of an expert may help you develop your coping skills and rebuild your self-esteem. Abused victims who do not undergo therapy after their traumatic experience may develop the habit of substance-abuse or alcoholism. Seeking professional advice is never too late; even if many years have passed since the abusive act you should still get help.

Effects on the Cortex and Limbic System

Adult survivors who have history of child abuse often easily respond to minor triggers; abused victims can be reactive even to minor stimuli that can cause their frontal lobe function to decrease and their limbic system to increase. Thus, their learning and problem solving development is slowed down while their impulsiveness is increased.

Decreased Hippocampal Volume

Your hippocampus (a small region of the brain that forms part of the limbic system and is primarily associated with memory and spatial navigation) plays an important role in processing information on the brain – without it nothing makes sense. It is very sensitive to stress hormones; when the hormones reach a high level they affect the ability of the hippocampus to function properly. If a person goes through excessive stress, he or she is unable to differentiate useful information from not. A particular stimulus may easily be misinterpreted in the absence of rational evaluation, which results to the inappropriate response of a person.

Thyroid Production is Affected

Your thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that can modulate metabolism. When it doesn’t function properly, your body may suffer from a number of health concerns involving your physical, physiological and interpersonal functioning. A deficit in thyroid production may compromise your neurobiological structures and decrease your resilience from trauma; creating additional stress to your ‘state of mind, body and soul’.