April: National Child Abuse Prevention Month

This content may dredge up difficult emotions. Please read with care.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. As an advocate for youth integrity, I strive to illuminate the impact of child abuse to the self and to society. Recent news articles have revealed, yet again, the toll of psychological damage and its destructive effects on safety—either to the self or to the public.

It came as no surprise to me to learn that the shooter convicted of killing ten people in Boulder had been a victim of bullying. Bullying counts as abuse, especially when it becomes pervasive and is extolled by anyone older than the victim. Some households discount the severity of bullying, diminishing it by placing blame on the victim. Common phrases surrounding diminishment include: You’re too sensitive. You need to toughen up. It was just a joke. Get over it. You have to forgive them.

The very act of diminishment serves to propagate further neglect of the problem by denying the victim’s reality. This is where trouble doubles down and turns adversity into trauma. When a child feels overwhelmed by their reality, the brain will resort to its psychological tools for survival. Self-deception is a reflex of traumatic experience, armor to protect the ego from collapsing into despair. A multitude of avenues exist for a person to steel away from their truth. One can live a fallacy for a lifetime, finding a million excuses to avoid their pain, perhaps killing others in an act of Displacement.

A great book for the lay-person about self-deception is Hide and Seek, by Neel Burton. In brief chapters, the author breaks down the primary modes of self-deceptive behaviors that the Self employs to diffuse difficult emotions. The purpose of the book is to supply the reader with knowledge in which to address their own bad behavior, to curtail negative social interactions, and to ultimately live in truth. As the author says, “Ours is a dirty business.”

Returning to child abuse, I became deeply concerned when a recent article revealed the decrease of child abuse reported during the pandemic. Typically, teachers and school staff are primary observers of children during the school day. Due to at-home learning, it is conceivable that even more children will suffer abuse at home. In this case, the irony of ensuring children’s safety is hardly laughable. Household stress is a common factor in child abuse cases, and with many parents struggling, it gives rise to the idea that our future generation will struggle from long-term psychological damage, simply due to unhealthy household environments. We as a society have to remember not to rely on statistics and numbers, but to apply them to the reality of a context. When we see the bigger picture, we have a more accurate view of the dire need for help. Let us remember to recognize victims as the most important members of society.

What can we do?

Personal missions to become involved in governmental processes remain an immediate call-to-action. Where you focus your intention is up to you: gun control, child protective services, or mental health advocacy are important routes for public safety. Self-awareness and parental education will empower the Self with tools to retrain reactions into responses.

Child safety begins with parents who live in truth. I will continue to maintain hope that the human desire for connection and compassion will overpower the violence and vitriol exposed during this time of adversity. I will continue to advocate for victims of all abuses. If you’re struggling, please seek help today by calling a professional. If you need help doing this, I’m here for you.

Let us celebrate the Easter weekend with hope for the future. Let us live individually in truth so we can live together in peace.

Wednesday Wisdom: Sensibility

Trigger Warning: Content contains sexual violence/trauma

The author Jessica Stern has been a huge influence on my writing work. She has written many books on terrorism (which I have not read, sorry, Jessica), but her memoir continues to inspire me with a single line. She wrote, “This is the worst impact of severe trauma: the victim loses faith in the evidence of her own senses.”

When I read this, I practically lifted my butt out of the chair with elation. Somebody finally understood me!

My story is not Jessica’s. Her memoir, Denial, A Memoir of Terror, reveals her journey as an expert on terrorism and her resilience to fear despite the extremely dangerous situations she willingly immersed herself in. Her investigative questioning to understand this resilience lead her back to her teen years when she and her sister were violently raped in their childhood home. As an emotional response to endure the incident, young Jessica willed away her fear. Afterwards, there was no memory of the event, as the trauma blocked her perception from her reality. She went on to live with a depleted sense of fear, which would explain her later obsession with danger. She wanted to feel something.

Trauma robs our perception of reality. This manifests in normalizing abnormal situations/behavior that we would typically avoid. The emotional wall meant to protect us has taken over, and rises each time the behavior occurs. We see it often in others, but it is much harder to see in ourselves as we have adapted to our own devices of self-protection. For whatever reason, this is a concept I continually obsess over and find absolutely fascinating. My own memoir delves into this notion, and whereas I have no expertise in the neurological manifestation of denial, I get it. I understand how emotions can be erased.

The way back to sensibility is through honesty, scrutiny, and one of the toughest jobs of adulting, emotional inquiry. We cannot arrive on the other side of trauma without the detective work into our own pasts. This requires guidance, support, a tribe, a community, an expert on trauma, loads of self-care, and absolute and endless loyalty to ourselves. It is not easy work, but when we regain our sensibility, we repair the broken link to the fullness of our identity.

Know that wherever you are in the journey, you are not alone. There is great power in each of us to immerse in healing, and many sources and methods exist for support. I like to think of myself as a friendly delegate. I’m happy to share links I have found helpful. Please email me if this interests you. Most of all, be kind and love yourself. You are so worthy of love.