Recently in Australia the news was awash with a cricket scandal to do with ball tampering, while somewhere in small print was a child sexual scandal that was virtually happening in our neighbourhood. Two questions I want to ask is
1 . Why is sporting scandal deemed more important than children’s lives?
2. Do people realise the ramifications of childhood trauma and that it has a ripple effect in our society?
The news article came out on 31st March 2018. I do not want to trigger anybody with details. Here is the article if you want to read it – Parents accused of drugging and child sexual assault. The news article alleges that Western Australian and South Australian Police uncovered child sexual abuse and drugging of an eight year old child by her mother, step father and friend of both. The possibility of further child sexual abuse at ‘swingers parties’ and how there are possibly other children involved.
While I understand how Australia is a sporting nation. I was once told that it is while watching sport is how Australians show their emotive side. In other words they have no fear showing emotion while watching sport. Ok that is a good thing to be expressive. However, this cricket saga was just that, it went on and on and there was only a slight peep about this child sex abuse and involvement with a ‘swingers’ club.
Is this a one off event? Well, close to home back in 2017 an Australian reporter along with an Australian teacher were charged with various child pornorgraphy offences. The article can be read here. Then going back to 2014 similar child sex abuse that involve family and friends occured in America Alabama and in a courthouse in Belfast, Ireland parents were charged for sexually abusing their four children. Across the internet there are chilling stories about emotional, physical, sexual abuse and neglect to children by their family members. In Australia statistics of reported child abuse and neglect to child protection services has increased from 2011 to 2017 ( Australian child abuse and neglect statistics ).
“In 2015-16, of the total number of notifications (355,935), 164,987 cases (involving 115,024 children) of child abuse were investigated or were in the process of being investigated.” CFCA Resource Sheet— June 2017
For me the figure of involving 115,024 children in the years 2015-16 is staggering and saddening. These are the reported cases. There are of course many unreported cases of child abuse and many don’t come forward until adulthood. This is the reason I am writing this blog. To answer question 2.
Basically, there is a good possibility that you may come into contact with someone who has experienced childhood abuse. It may be someone at work, it may be someone in sport, it may be someone in the shopping center or it may be someone you are having an intimate relationship with. No one is going to wear a banner on their forehead saying – ‘I’m a survivor of childhood abuse.’ Not that I think anyone should ask unless they are a professional therapist in a therapeutic setting nor should they ever disclose that unless they felt very safe to do so. It is important to understand what are some of the childhood effects of abuse and neglect which can been seen as trauma, stress and the effects of on the developing brain.
Trauma, stress and the developing brain
“Trauma caused by experiences of child abuse and neglect appears to have serious effects on the developing brain (McCrory, De Brito, & Viding, 2010; Streeck-Fischer & van der Kolk, 2000).” Read more about this here – Effects of child abuse and neglect for children and adolescents CFCA Resource Sheet— January 2014. From this research sheet here is the list of possible consequences of childhood abuse and neglect –
- Attachment and interpersonal relationship problems,
- Learning and developmental problems,
- Mental health problems,
- Youth suicide, Alcohol and other drug use,
- Behavioural problems, Aggression, violence and criminal activity,
- Physical health problems,
- Teenage pregnancy,
- Fatal abuse
These children who survive are survivors of childhood abuse and neglect. This doesn’t mean that their life is easy. Many try very hard to hold down a steady job, seek a long term relationship or to gain consistent sleep. According to the CFCA Resource Sheet— January 2014 there are a list of other possible consequences from the Effects of child abuse and neglect for adult survivors.
- Intergenerational transmission of abuse and neglect,
- Physical health problems,
- Mental health problems,
- Suicidal behaviour,
- Eating disorders and obesity,
- Alcohol and substance abuse,
- Aggression, violence and criminal behaviour,
- High-risk sexual behaviour,
It is easy to see and even understand this from a distance but when we are up front and personal with someone who is in distress the view is not always as compassionate. Showing emotion in western culture only seems to be ok if it has to do with sport, a wedding or a sad movie. Anything else is deemed as weak, difficult or baby like. This is what happens in personal relationships or someone crying at work or someone who reacts in a peculiar way to something. How often have you heard people in the work space saying things like, ‘Can you believe how Josie is crying over nothing!’ or ‘How’s Freds form, he’s hardly ever at work because he always seems to be sick!’ Then in personal relationships we hear phrases such as, ‘I couldn’t stay in that relationship she/he was too toxic’ or you hear that phrase, ‘They have emotional baggage!’
If I can do one thing with this blog – it is I want to show another way to react to the distress of others. To hopefully respond with more compassion. What if that person at work who is holding back tears or sobbing quietly in the corner was a survivor of childhood trauma or neglect and a supervisor, boss or fellow colleague said something that triggered their childhood wound? What if that person hasn’t had a good night sleep in weeks due to childhood trauma or neglect or is under undue stress due to other family or financial issues? Do you think that person really wants to be crying at work? Do you think that person wants to be vilified anymore in their life?
What if we looked at ’emotional baggage’ differently? What if instead of looking at someone as difficult or with a ton of baggage, we looked at them with compassion? What if we looked at people who are having a hard time coping in the relationship in one way or another that we see that perhaps that person maybe deeply wounded? It may be difficult to stay in a relationship with that person but it doesn’t mean we need to wound people anymore.
Maybe next time you see someone in distress do something different. Like just be there for them. Stop or don’t join in staff room disrespectful talk or better still give voice to highlight a different perspective. Maybe next time you are in a relationship and your partner yells, screams or has a melt down instead of reacting defensively show some compassion and give hope to that person that not all people in the world are abusive.
I hope by having some insight of childhood abuse and its ramifications that people can change their perceptions and response when distress is front and centre. It is through safe and respectful relationships that humans grow and thrive. Not all people are privileged to be brought up in a loving home and no child ever wishes to be abused. While not everyone who is distressed is a survivor of childhood abuse or neglect the fact is they are distressed and let’s do more comforting than more hurting others.
Next time there is a report of childhood abuse in the news let’s think about the children. Let’s give thought that these precious young people need a lifetime of support and compassion. And that their painful memories last a lot longer than a cricket disqualification, and their emotional wounds cannot simply be discarded at will like unwanted baggage – it is far more complex than than. While we may not be directly responsible for people’s childhood wounds, we do have the choice to comfort and support instead of giving more hurt.
If you believe a child is in immediate danger call Police on 000.