Childhood Abuse: What is it, what are the effects, and what can you do?

Family Dealing With Childhood Abuse

Often times we think of abuse as something that happens to those who are poor, less educated or just “not me”. Sometimes, we deny that abuse has ever happened to us because it “just doesn’t fit” and we believe that facing the truth will be too painful.   We continue to deny it, making excuses for those who have hurt us and rationalizing what really happened. As children, we’ve established defenses that helped protect us from the pain; but as adults those same defenses are no longer helpful and those same defenses have started to hurt us.

The truth is, abuse does not discriminate and it spans across different gender, racial, socio-economic and demographic lines. In 2012, state agencies found an estimated 686,000 victims of confirmed child maltreatment of 3 million reported cases, however even these numbers are said to be low as they don’t take into account unreported cases. Childhood abuse is underreported and victims often feel at fault and isolated — unable and sometimes unwilling to tell anyone due to their home dynamics and personal factors.

Childhood abuse can be physical. Physical abuse can be loosely defined as a non-accidental injury or pattern of injuries. This is the most visible type of abuse and indicators can include welts, burns, bites, strangulation marks, etc.

Childhood abuse can also be emotional. Emotional abuse is a form of abuse that aims to degrade the worth of a person, and can include name-calling, ridicule, humiliation, intimidation, withholding of communication, etc.

A third type of childhood abuse is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse can include fondling, exposure, exposure to pornography, molestation and penetration.

Emotional and physical neglect can also be a form of abuse that doesn’t get as much attention, but can be just as detrimental.

The effects of childhood abuse can be detrimental for our development, often affecting the way we relate to the world, to others, to God, and to ourselves. It leads to us feeling unsafe and unable to trust others or clinging to anyone and anything that will give us any sort of satisfaction. In either case, we remain unfulfilled and often confused about why our world is in disarray.

From a mental health perspective, childhood abuse can be a major contributing factor to substance abuse, behavioral addictions, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a myriad of other mental disorders.

From a spiritual perspective, we feel neglected, angry at, and disconnected from God. The defenses that once helped us as children are no longer effective and lead us to choices that harm us, or worse, kill us-literally or figuratively.

If you are an individual who has experienced childhood abuse and are experiencing difficulties in your life, mental health counseling has shown to be effective in decreasing the detrimental effects of abuse and of increasing one’s quality of life. Perspectives of Troy has qualified professionals who are educated, experienced and ready to embark on the journey of healing with you. Our professionals are trained in different evidence based treatment modalities including CBT, REBT, and EMDR to name a few.

If you are someone who is dealing with pain from the past, please know that you are not alone, and you need not walk alone. Call Perspectives of Troy Counseling Centers at 248-244-8644 to make an appointment.

If you know or suspect that a child is being abused, you can contact the Department of Human Services/Child Protective services at 855-444-3911, and you can remain anonymous.

By Georgiana DesRosiers, MA, LPC