Spotting The Abused Child
The four main forms of child abuse: Physical, sexual, psychological and neglect.
Which boy is the abused child? Daniel and David were my brothers and although the visual signs in this photo are different, the answer is both.
David the younger one smiled way too much even in circumstances that didn’t warrant a smile. It was a fake, stuck on self reassuring smile that said: I’m okay, I’m hanging on, everything is going to be okay.
Daniels face reflects his pain and suffering yet, there is a look of defiance in his eyes. They were subjected to all forms of child abuse by our father, he is on the right.
Signs of child abuse and neglect:
- Unexplained injuries
- Changes in behavior
- Returning to earlier behaviors (thumb-sucking and bed-wetting)
- Fear of going home
- Changes in eating
- Changes in sleeping
- Changes in school performance and attendance
- Lack of personal care or hygiene
- Risk taking behavior
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors
- Unusual parent/child interactions
Other signs of child abuse:
- Black eyes
- Broken bones
- Bruising in unusual areas of the body
- Cigarette burns
- Human bites
- Lash marks
- Self mutilation
- Drug and or alcohol abuse
- Low self esteem
- Running away
- Suicide attempts
- Hostility or aggression
- Sexual promiscuity/ pregnancy/ sexual transmitted diseases
- Dangerous risk taking behaviors
- Appears disturbed or frightened
- Avoids eye contact or does not talk openly to others
- Feels anxious, shy, depressed, or withdrawn
- Low self esteem
- Difficulties in school
- Eating disorders leading to weight loss
- Overly compliant; too well mannered; too neat and clean
- Frequent psychosomatic complaints such as; headaches, stomach aches
- Child is inadequately clothed, frequently dirty or has body odor
- Begs for food or money to buy food
- Parent exhibits lack of concern for the child’s welfare
- Child doesn’t appear to receive necessary medical care; eye glasses, dental
- Role reversal, expecting the child to provide attention, emotional support or other types of care
After an abusive childhood, lessen the chance of these side effects by realizing YOU are now in power!
- Feelings of worthlessness an unloved
- Feel guilty for having fun, undeserving of anything good
- Lack of trust. Always on alert waiting for the other shoe to drop
- Suspicious of people and there motives
- Avoid relationships even sabotaging ones you value
- Fear and dislike of intimacy
- Spend a lot of time alone for fear of rejection
- Never speak up during discussions in group settings, afraid of saying something stupid
- Terrified of “messing up” and being verbally assaulted for it
- Deeply wounded by any sort of criticism
- Fear of abandonment or becoming lost
- Feelings of never belonging or fitting in
- Never pursuing achievement because you know you will fail or just the opposite, obsessed by over achieving in everything you do
In this picture I am sixteen years-old, my mother is days from dying and my brothers Gary, Daniel, David and I know we will be left with our abuser, our father. Pretty much everything listed above had tried to take up residence deep within my heart and soul. Although I was sad, I fought everyday determined not to weaken and fall prey to these things knowing they would rob me of the rest of my life.
Where Have All The Fathers Gone?
My brothers and I lived with the man who fathered us but, was not a father to us. Eventually, all four of us were abandoned to the street. I was 16, Gary 14, Daniel 12, and David was 10 years-old.
When Children Grow Up In A Fatherless home:
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
- 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
- 80% of rapist with anger problems come from fatherless homes
Source; U.S. Department of Health and Census, Nat Principals Ass. Report, CDC, Justice and Behavior
America’s Disturbing Statistics:
- 2,266,800 adults were incarcerated in U.S. in federal and state prisons and county jails at year-end 2010, leading every other country in the world.
- One in every 28 children in the U.S. has an incarcerated parent. The federal prison population has more than doubled since 1995.
- Through the juvenile courts and the adult criminal justice system the U.S. incarcerated more of its youth than any other country in the world.
- Since 1980 the nation has tripled its prison population; opening the equivalent of 3 or more new 500 bed prisons every week.
Source; U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics and the New York Times, the Pew Center
“Children who are physically abused, who experience violence as a way of life, are far more likely to react with violence themselves, violence that often leads to criminal charges. It is a learned response.”
From: “Can This Child Be Saved?” By Dr. Foster W. Cline
David Martin Long arrested for murder.
After a childhood of abuse you can gain strength through understanding and by practicing self-care techniques. Do the things you always dreamed of doing as a child, there’s no one to stop you now. Make a list, here’s mine!
- If you never had a bicycle, go buy one and ride your heart out. If you wanted to learn guitar, take dance or art lessons, do it!
- Take classes on subjects you are interested in through a college, park and recreation or other offerings in your city or town.
- Do something for others, volunteer to spend time with people who have no one. Nursing homes are full of people who are completely alone.
- Chances are if you we’re an abused child your birthday was not cause for celebration, celebrate your birthday!
- Tell your story to others, you know what you are talking about, you’re a pro, you lived it. Take what you know and speak to youth groups, kids at risk, even adult support groups. There is comfort in knowing you are not the only one, for them and you.
- Read, my understanding of what happened to my family started with a book, “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. For the first time, I read answers to questions that for years had haunted me, it was vindicating! I found comfort in learning the implosion of our family was predictable considering all that went on under the rule of a man like our father. Whether it’s a book of survival, inspiration, clinical, biographical, or a memoir, start reading.
Books that reshaped my thinking:
- “Can This Child be saved?” by Dr. Foster W. Cline
- “Adult Children of Abusive Parents” by Steven Farmer, M.A., M.F.C.C
- “A Child Called it” by David Pelzer
- “The Four Doors” by Richard Paul Evans
- “The Walk” by Richard Paul Evans
- “Terror by Night” by Terry Caffey with James H. Pence
- “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch
- “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell
- “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker
- “The Purpose Driven Life” by Pastor Rick Warren
- “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt
Mentor a child. Our mentor Louise Hagan, Gary and I.
Lynda Long is not a psychologist and does not claim to be an authority on child abuse. She is not dispensing advise. Her intent is to make a contribution in raising awareness of the life long effects of child abuse from her personal experiences. If you believe that you or someone you know has been abused, you are urged to seek professional counseling.