Physical abuse rears its pandemic head
Sandra Schiele, Counsel House
Recently, we focused on emotional abuse. Now, we will talk about the physical scars that plague so many children and adults. Having worked for child protective services for more than 15 years, I have seen how this cycle passes from generation to generation. I’ve seen how generations have been raised with no abuse and yet one generation begins the cycle. I’ve also seen the cycle be broken.
Physical abuse occurs when a person is physically assaulted to the extent injuries incur. There is often a pattern. Adults often yell at the children. The children aren’t necessarily supervised closely or consistently. There’s often a discrepancy in parenting styles. There may also be spousal/partner abuse co-occurring. Alcohol and other drug abuse is frequently present. Behavioral health issues may be present for the child/abuser. Physical abuse crosses all socio-economic classes. It’s in families of respected public figures. It’s in wealthy and impoverished homes and everything in between.
It may begin with insults, threats, demeaning language and progress to screaming. It may involve breaking things, punching walls, kicking furniture, harming family pets, shoving and getting right into another’s personal space in order to intimidate them. Bare hands and weapons are used. Don’t just think of guns and knives as the only weapons used. Tree branches, belts, lit cigarettes, bats, skillets, brooms and even the lid to the back of the commode tank are used. Welts, bruises, concussions, burns, scratches, broken bones and internal injuries result.
For children, this leads to anger and mistrust. The parent or caregiver is supposed to be the one person children trust the most. This adult is supposed to keep them safe, fed, clothed, sheltered and loved. When this one person does not protect and nurture the child, then, honestly, who else will?
As adults, we know that we can love and care for someone, be loyal and protective, and that the person doesn’t have to be related to us. But as a child, they don’t know this. They just know they can’t trust the ones closest to them so the thought of trusting others is unfathomable.
Adults who are experiencing physical abuse, usually from their partner but sometimes from their own children, go through a cycle of domestic violence. Things are fine. Tension builds. The physical abuse occurs. Then, the partner is very apologetic yet still places blame on the victim. Victims are told that this wouldn’t have happened if they had done “xyz” or hadn’t done “abc.” Promises are made to change. Failing to take steps to ensure this won’t happen again sustains the cycle of violence.
This pandemic perpetuates it as we are in closer quarters with fewer outlets and many are worried, depressed, angry, scared and overwhelmed.
Help is available. To report suspected abuse, call the Indiana Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-800-5556 or the Indiana Adult Abuse Hotline at 1-800-992-6978.
If we can be of assistance to you or a loved one, contact us at 812-738-3277 or via email at [email protected].
Editor’s note: Sandra Schiele is a licensed behavioral health specialist who practices at Counsel House in Corydon.