Abuse isn't something that people seem to want to hear about, even though more people are talking about it today than in the past. I have my own personal opinions on this. I tend to see abuse as a dirty little secret which perpetrators deny, justify, or minimize, in order that they can get away with it; and which most well-meaning people probably can't handle hearing about as something real. It is literally stomach-turning to read the statistics on child sexual abuse, for instance, and turn the numbers into real children. When one out of four little girls is sexually abused, and one out of seven little boys, sometime before their adulthood, that means that every fourth little girl you know could well be a victim. The faces on the statistics are those of our daughters, the kids down the street, the children of your neighbors, homeless kids, or even your own child. Admitting that something so horrible could well happen -- and may already be happening -- to some precious little child that you know and love is a terrible thing to think of; so I suppose most folks aren't willing to go beyond a state of marginal denial about it.
For instance, how would you like to know that your next door neighbor is sodomizing his 3-year-old daughter every night, the same little child who loves to come over to your house and play with your pets? Or how would it be to discover that your gay teenage son is being beaten up by his boyfriend? Or to hear the story about the 18-month-old infant who was found dead, assaulted to death by an adult man who raped her so hard they found semen in her chest cavity?
Difficult acts to imagine, let alone endure. Yet perpetrators imagine them, as well as other violations too disgustingly evil to write out here, and practice them on their victims daily.
But victims do endure, and survive, and many tell their stories. In recent years, people have been talking, telling the world the truth about their lives and their experiences dealing with abuse, and the long, arduous process of recovery. Survivors have been talking vocally enough that there has even emerged a backlash against the recovery movement, evidenced by the existence of such organizations as the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. (Take note: just because I mention that organization on my webpage doesn't mean that I endorse them or their activities in the least little way. My personal opinion of the FMSF is, to put it mildly, not particularly flattering. I will not say that false allegations of abuse do not occur -- they do -- but I am firm in my belief that the backlash against recovery is an angry attempt to deny the horrors that millions of survivors have endured. It is an insult to survivors everywhere, and I have no tolerance for it.)
Survivors have talked so much about physical types of abuse -- those perpetrated against the body (battering and sexual abuse, for instance) -- that such subjects are now widely known in mainstream society. Less widely spoken of are forms of abuse that are not directly tangible: psychological, emotional, verbal, or ritual abuse.
Survivors of multiple kinds of abuse often say that the emotional part of their experience is by far the most damaging. Emotional abuse leaves no physically visible scars; but the damage to the victim's very soul is often all-encompassing. The perpetrator of emotional abuse teaches the victim to hate themselves from the inside out, leaving a legacy of self-destruction that may well survive long after the perpetrator is out of their lives. Depression, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and addictions are often the result of having been abused.
The sinister thing about emotional abuse and its byproducts are that it's incredibly easy to blame the victim for it. Victims of emotional abuse are often told such lies as, "You're just taking it wrong", "You shouldn't let it bother you", or the old standby, "Sticks and stones/May break my bones/But words will never hurt me." (To this last, I say: BULLSHIT.) Words do hurt. A verbal abuser, for instance, can let fly with a barrage of name-calling, insults, violent anger, rage, and screaming, and then answer the victim's pain by telling them that they're just being "hypersensitive" and insisting that the victim is to blame for their own pain. Never mind that they've just had someone verbally rip them a new asshole, now the victim is not only hurting from the attack, they've also been informed that they are to blame for being hurt; and not only do they have to deal with the pain of being abused, they also have to deal with the crazymaking idea that there is something wrong with them, since it's their fault they were hurt.
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