Hidden Types of Abuse
There is a well-recognised link between childhood abuse and the consequential physical and psychological injury that occurs. Throughout these Newsletters we have consistently linked this early abuse with its resulting post-traumatic stress with the dysfunctional behaviours displayed in class.
In the general literature and in the education department’s communication regarding child protection the categories are, physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual. However, the difference between psychological abuse and emotional abuse is arbitrary and for this paper we will describe the latter together. I contend there are two additional forms of child abuse that is not recognised by any authority and these also have a long-lasting effect on the child’s development.
Before discussing these hidden assaults on children a quick summary of the acknowledged forms of abuse is presented below.
This is the use of intentional force against a child’s body or an unwanted invasion of their physical space. It can be:
- Holding Down
- Exaggerated Tickling
- Pulling Hair
- Twisting Ear
In historical terms hitting a child has been an acceptable form of discipline and we still hear ignorant teachers lamenting the fact that corporal punishment has disappeared in contemporary societies. It remains the point that hitting is abuse and the only lesson learned by the child is if you want to get someone to do what you require it is appropriate to hit him or her to achieve this outcome.
This is a form of abuse where the child’s psychological boundaries are violated. This can take the form of non-accidental verbal or symbolic actions that are likely to result in significant psychological or emotional harm. Forms of emotional abuse are:
- Attacking the worth of the child by rejecting them, terrorising or isolating them.
- Telling the child that they are stupid, un-loveable or unwanted.
- Being overly harsh in criticising the child.
- Punishing the child when they become emotional – don’t be a baby, etc. or when they show no emotion when it would be appropriate to do so.
- When the love of a parent is conditional on their behaviour (I will love you if …)
This form of abuse is considered, by some to be more damaging as there is no ‘evidence’ it happened and abusers do not see the damage done. This is particularly so if the perpetrator is an addict or has a mental illness. They don’t see the bruises.
This abuse is when an adult or older adolescent uses the child for their sexual gratification or for financial profit of the person committing the act. This can include:
- Unwanted touching or penetration of the sexual organs.
- Adults exposing their own genitals to a child.
- Exposure to inappropriate sexual experiences or information (i.e. Pornography).
Sexual abuse is a silent destroyer of too many young children in our society especially with the easy availability of pornography on the Internet.
Now we come to the hidden forms of abuse. These rarely get coverage in the general literature but are equally as likely to expose the child to toxic levels of stress. These are:
One type of spiritual abuse that occurs is when the parents put themselves above the child. The child must ‘worship’ the parent. A contrary form of spiritual abuse occurs when the parents put the child above themselves. The child becomes the focus of their devotion, they can do no wrong. These children never learn to take responsibility. In the first instance the parent knows best and you just do as you’re told. In the latter form the parent will not see any faults in the child’s behaviour and so they never get the natural consequences when they make a wrong choice.
This form of abuse is becoming more and more prevalent in modern society, many parents are loathed to correct their children’s inappropriate behaviour possibly through advice about ‘killing their spirit’. Perhaps, it is the idea that kids must ‘find their own way’. Despite the reason, the lack of teaching children ethical principles has resulted in a loss of once valued traditional forms of etiquette and communal responsibility.
About one percent of the general population have been so affected by this child-centred attention they meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, that is they display at least five of the following nine traits:
- Has grandiose sense of self-importance.
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
- Believes he/she is special and unique.
- Requires excessive admiration.
- Has strong sense of entitlement.
- Is interpersonally exploitative.
- Lacks empathy, is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her.
- Shows arrogance, haughty behaviours and attitudes.
The second form of spiritual abuse occurs when ‘religions’ teach that God will punish sinners and all are condemned unless they conform to some dogma. People who work with children brought up in some cults attest to the damage done through this form of abuse but it would be a brave politician who would underline the damage done when adherence to the word of any god is criticized.
This occurs when a child is placed in a situation where they are asked to perform a task they are developmentally incapable of successfully achieving. An example is when a child is given a glass of milk to drink before they have developed the motor skills required for this task. When they fail they are either labelled as useless by the parent or confirm to themselves the belief that they are at fault because they failed.
Education departments are loathed to acknowledge this type of abuse but it happens all the time, whenever a student is asked do an exam on work they have never been shown or are just incapable of doing they are being abused!
Intellectual abuse also occurs when a significant other compares one child’s performance against another child implying one is better than the other. Education departments never like to rank their students, do they? This would be abusive.