Abuse in Families…

My wife and I were watching a documentary on You Tube called Soft White Underbelly. Prostitutes in the US are interviewed and more or less give a narrative on how they got there. There are so many heart breaking stories, so if you have time check out the channel on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEWO2iWGmX4

What was evident and common about all the women that were interviewed is that there was one form of abuse or the other within their home and family in the early years growing up. I can confidently say that once we understand what abuse”really means then we would recognize that each and every one of us has undergone some form of abuse or knows someone close to us who has.

It is the nature of abuse within families to be as behaviorally nuanced and emotionally complex as the individuals involved. Relationship abuses nearly inevitably reveal a life-draining and self-perpetuating dynamic of POWER and CONTROL. It is within this dynamic that abuse is perpetuated. Abuse is a complex concept, one that is easily defined and yet very difficult to understand and identify. Many who have experienced abuse in any form for long periods of time or from a number of people in their lives have difficulty distinguishing unhealthy relationship patterns and the dangers of prolonged abuse.  The term “abuse” covers a broad spectrum of behaviors and actions thus making it difficult to define a specific number of types.

Abuse may manifest as PHYSICAL (throwing, shoving, grabbing, blocking pathways, slapping, hitting, scratches, bruises, burns, cuts, wounds, broken bones, fractures, damage to organs, permanent injury, even murder), SEXUAL (suggestive flirtatiousness, propositioning, undesired or inappropriate holding, kissing, fondling of sexual parts, masturbation, oral sex, or any kind of forceful sexual activity), or EMOTIONAL (neglect, harassment, shaming, threatening, malicious tricks, blackmail, unfair punishments, cruel or degrading tasks, confinement, abandonment).PSYCHOLOGICAL abuse is also difficult to define as it encompasses a spectrum of abuse that offers no obvious physical evidence. Psychological abuse can be included as an element of emotional or verbal abuse, making it difficult to define it as a distinctly different form. Many experiences this kind of abuse in the form of restriction, belittlement, unrealistic demands, or threats. It can also include things such as withholding affection/information in order to extract certain behavior from the individual being abused

Abuse may also involve what is called strategic accusation in an attempt to maintain perceived leverage in the context of families and social circles—for instance, communicating to family and friends that the victim has engaged in affairs that have not occurred, or even using the mere threat of spreading such a rumor. There may also be implicit threats, such as, for instance, the open display of weapons. Perpetrators may drive recklessly in order to generate fear and emphasize a position of control.

The documentary I mentioned singled out Child abuse as the primary cause of destructive behaviours that end up seeing teenagers and young adults on the street. Child abuse happens when someone caring for a child hurts a child’s feelings or body. It can happen to boys or girls in any family. Often, hurt feelings (or emotional trauma) last long after a hurt body has healed. Most cases of sexual abuse involve a close trusted adult or family member who abuses the child’s trust. Often, the child is pressured or talked into the activity, offered gifts, or asked to keep secrets, not physically forced into it.

Kids and teens often have a hard time speaking up about abuse. So knowing the signs of child abuse can help.

Kids who are being abused might:

  • have frequent bruises, especially in places kids don’t usually get bruises from play
  • have stories to explain injuries that don’t make sense or keep changing
  • not want to go home or to school
  • avoid being with the abuser
  • avoid being with others
  • show signs of emotional trauma, like fear, anger, or trouble relating to or trusting others
  • be sad or depressed
  • bully others
  • hurt themselves, like cutting
  • have nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • act out in class, have trouble paying attention, or be hyperactive
  • use drugs

Kids who see abuse (but are not the victims themselves) or see violence between adults caring for them sometimes show similar signs.

These signs don’t always point to abuse. Kids going through stressful times — like their parents’ separation or divorce, a move, or the death of a loved one — also might be sad, angry, or withdrawn. But if physical signs (like bruises) happen along with behavior problems, that’s a stronger sign of abuse.

The Reasons for Abuse in a Marriage

Trigger Thoughts :Research shows that what directly precipitates violence in a marital argument is a sequence of very detrimental thoughts, which frequently present an entirely distorted image of reality. It is not uncommon for a relationship to have its set ways of arguing that often go nowhere and are truly unproductive. But in violent relationships, these thoughts are potentially dangerous for the victim. For example, a few such cognitive distortions that often ring in the perpetrator’s mind, or back of his or her mind, are: “She’s being disrespectful, I can’t allow that or she will think I’m weak”, “Who does she think she is, speaking to me that way?”, “Such an idiot just can’t be brought to reason otherwise than by force”, etc. Once such beliefs come to the abuser’s mind, it seems that there is no going back and the violence becomes imminent.

Inability to Tolerate Hurt: It is difficult for everyone to be hurt by the one we love and we committed our lives to. And living with someone, sharing everyday stress and unpredictable hardships, will inevitably lead to being hurt and disappointed sometimes. But most of us deal with such situations without becoming violent or psychologically abusive towards our spouses. Yet, perpetrators of spousal abuse exhibit utter inability to tolerate being done wrong (or their perception as being damaged and offended). These individuals react to pain by inflicting pain to others. They cannot allow themselves to feel anxiety, sorrow, to appear weak, vulnerable, or to be put down in any way. So, they charge instead, and attack relentlessly.

Growing Up in an Abusive Family : Although not every abuser comes from an abusive family or a chaotic childhood, the majority of aggressors does have a childhood trauma in their personal history. Similarly, many victims of spousal abuse also often come from a family in which the dynamics were toxic and filled with either psychological or physical abuse. In that way, both the husband and the wife (often unconsciously) perceive the abuse as the norm, maybe even as an expression of closeness and affection.

Lack of Empathy: An expected reason that enables the perpetrator to commit violence or abuse against someone with whom they share their life with is lack of empathy, or a seriously diminished feeling of empathy, one that gives way to impulses all the time. An abusive person often believes that they have almost supernatural power to understand others. They often do see others’ limitations and weaknesses quite clearly. This is why, when confronted with their lack of empathy in an argument or at a psychotherapy session, they passionately dispute such claim. Nonetheless, what eludes them is that empathy doesn’t mean just seeing others’ flaws and insecurities, it has an emotional component to it and comes with care for and sharing of others’ feelings. Marriage is always difficult and takes a lot of work. But it should never bring abuse and suffering from the side of those who are meant to protect us from harm. But for many, change is possible, with professional help and guidance, and many marriages are known to thrive after different kinds of spousal abuse were abandoned by the perpetrators.

I wrote this article with a heavy heart because I know so many people that might not even speak out about the different kinds of abuse. They go all the way to their adult years and never speak of it to anyone and internalize but become self destructive in certain areas of their lives

It will help as family members and friends if we can identify some of these signs and act while there is still a chance to help someone who is going through this kind of abuse. Do not ignore it or pretend it does not exist. If you are experiencing the characteristics of unhealthy relationships, do not be afraid to ask for help. Be sure to have a trusted friend or family member on whom you can rely. It is not weak or embarrassing to ask for help when you need it. And trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about going home or fearful of your spouse or partner or any family member, take steps to ensure your safety. This could include having a friend with you upon returning home so you are not alone, or, in severe circumstances, going to the home of a loved one or to a domestic violence shelter rather than going home. Above all else, know you are not alone! If you are experiencing the characteristics of the mentioned types of abuse, there are those who can help and support you. While reaching out can seem like an impossible and perhaps dangerous task, know there is help ready and waiting for you.

Romans 12: 17-21 – Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Wilbert Frank Chaniwa

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