I would like to introduce you to Susan whose passion is to raise awareness of Child Abuse. Here is her story and you can read more about her in her blog, Surviving Life.
You may be aware that in life there are many difficult, uncomfortable conversations that need to be had, sure we avoid them and ignore them but eventually we have to have them.
And it’s time we sat down as a society to actually discuss Child Abuse and what do we need to do to stop it, but as much as I want to help to create safeguards and policies based on real life experiences I need first try and get you to HEAR me.
I don’t regale you with the tales of my many woes for shock, the pity or for the attention I do it with the vain hope of making a connection with you, I want you to really try and imagine what life was like for me as a child, not just generally but through every situation I had to deal with.
I felt so trapped as a child, there was nowhere I could turn for safety and nobody I could tell that would be able to ensure my safety or stop the harm from happening, as a small kid I tried running away but it isn’t until you’ve made your move you know that surviving as a 7/8 year old alone, no money, no shelter and no place to hide is not an option.
It feels like your suffocating because you keep looking for solutions and end up with more problems.
We need a society that is listening to the pain of others in order to understand the problem that needs to be fixed, like a doctor examining a patient finding out what hurts, where, why in order to find the best treatment for them, we can’t fix any of the problems we have in society unless we’re willing to hear those complaints.
When I contemplated running away I thought of many things that would have been helpful to have in place for children like me, I thought of safe houses dotted around the Country, open 24/7 run by youth workers that would house me in a temporary style while keeping me safe from those I feared.
I thought of stickers people could put in their doors that could be signals to children of a home where they could go for safety until authorities got involved.
I wished there that there was a law that allowed an adult to take to keep a child in their care if that child was at risk of harm or where the child directly asked for help – I was quite a pragmatic child!
None of these ideas are bad, they come from someone who was in that kind of situation, someone who knows the flaws in our child protection system all they need is to be heard and considered and this uncomfortable conversation has to start somewhere.
Surely people could agree when it comes to learning about any subject that it is necessary to learn from someone with experience, it’s not possible to learn real life from books, you couldn’t perform a surgery after reading a book about it, nor would you want a surgeon to perform an operation if they said ‘Yeah, well I’ve read about it’.
To help fix any form of abuse you need to first listen to the abused.
“Sorry, Bear With Me – I’m Still Getting Used to Being Treated Like A Human Being!”
After decades of constant attacks for little to no reason by everyone around me it became what I expected from people.
As a child I thought that the only common denominator was me, hundreds of attacks by dozens of people and they couldn’t all be wrong? Right?
It led me to believe that I just be doing something wrong to warrant this behaviour – logically it had to be my fault.
Once when I was 8 my sister went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and flushed the toilet:
This terrible transgression was punished by my father who made me and my sister drink gone off whole milk, so off it was chunky – to this day the smell of whole milk makes me nauseas. Then we were made to stay up all night, every time we started to fall asleep he hit us and say “You asked for this”
I came to the rationalisation that I didn’t deserve to be allowed to go to the bathroom at night, that disturbing my father’s sleep would get me beaten so from that day forth I would stay in bed for hours unable to sleep because I needed to pee – just to avoid the danger.
I did not see it as unreasonable behaviour because I was taught from a young age that if children didn’t do anything wrong they wouldn’t be punished, as I’ve explained before on my blog it was ingrained in me from a young age that even an unfair and unreasonable rule must be obeyed by a child.
So when abused I looked to a default within my behaviour which was the cause of the outcome – injury. The slightest error was enough, let me give a different example:
When I was 5 I got beaten by my father for eating 2 pieces of his father’s day chocolate bar I remember being thrown around the living room, into the sofa and into the mantlepiece, slapped punched and screamed at – I remember bleeding from my head and reeling from the attack I just went to bed.
Many years ago I brought the incident up with a friend I explained how my father had made all us kids sit on the stairs until someone confessed and being coerced into it by being told “Your his favourite, he’ll go easier on you” by one of my siblings.
I told my friend about the beating. Instead of leaving the story there I added “But it was Galaxy chocolate and that is a superior chocolate” as if this completely justified my father’s actions. After a moment my friend replied “Oh well that makes it alright then! I was just thinking how disgusting it is to beat a 5 year old over a piece of poor quality chocolate but it was nice chocolate so that makes it alright – if it had been like Dairy Milk THAT would be a total overreaction!” He said it so sarcastically that for the first time that ever I thought that even if I had taken the chocolate no adult should ever behave the way he did – it was actually the first time it occurred to me that HE was in the wrong, not me!
That happened to me when I was 5 and I didn’t tell anyone until my 20s and so for at least 15 years I believed that this attack was my fault, my wrongdoing – karma punishing me for thinking about taking the chocolate.
(You know something weird? Even though didn’t take the chocolate, I remember seeing it and wanting to take some but I was too scared to and I thought it was stealing but to this day I feel guilty that I NEARLY did like it makes me a bad person)
What I’m getting at is for years so many minor things were worth more to others that my safety and wellbeing that when someone does show me a kindness or doesn’t attack me for a small mistake it’s really weird… I remember on my first job making a small mistake which someone pointed out and for a second I actually thought they were going to dive across the table and hit m -, they didn’t (obviously) but the point is that this is what naturally occurs to me.
I’m not used to being treated like my comfort, safety, thoughts or feelings matter. Practically this means that I can act oddly in social situations, sometimes it’s just a look of confusion other times I may seem suspicious, overly aggressive or guarded.
I can’t help it and you can’t fix it so when an inevitable uncomfortable moment occurs, don’t bother trying to comfort me, no need to try and calm me, just leave it, leave me alone.
You cannot undo the decades of my life where I’ve learnt to expect abuse, it takes time, care, patience and dedication to help someone overcome even 1 traumatic event and let’s be honest you don’t have any of these requirements to actually help so do the next best thing – ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen, sweep it under the rug so I can at least maintain some dignity.
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The Memoir You Will Bear Witness is available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback