Shattered Hearts: Child Abuse and PTSD….


Today child abuse is rampant in this world, its like an epidemic that leaves an epidemic proportion of hurt and wounded children behind who then grow into hurt and wounded adults if there is no help or intervention for them. Are these children getting the help they need if they’re lucky enough to be removed my social services? Are they getting counselling to deal with their trauma or does it stop at their removal from the home?

Early intervention is what’s needed for these children lucky enough to be removed from their homes to deal with their trauma. It’s not enough to just remove a child, that child is wounded and traumatized and needs help. PTSD has likely already settled into these children depending on the severity and longevity of their abuse. I say children lucky enough to be removed from their homes because many aren’t and are left to suffer in silence because their abuser hasn’t been caught. These children, if they survive, are left to try to pick up the shattered pieces of themselves in adulthood. PTSD has likely had years to do its damage and take control of their bodies and minds.

There is not enough understanding or awareness of PTSD and its effects, particularly when children have been exposed to trauma. That should be the first thing that is examined when any child or adult comes from an abusive home. There needs to be as much focus on the child’s healing as there is on making sure the child is safe and removed from the abusive home. That is the only way the cycle of abuse is going to be broken and these children are going to have a chance to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults. Imagine having to spend the majority of your adulthood having the undo the effects of trauma and abuse? That’s only if people choose to heal and don’t succumb to the pain by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol or worse succumb to suicide because they can’t take the pain anymore.

What is Child Abuse?

“Child maltreatment can be categorized into several broad types including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect/failure to provide, and emotional maltreatment.

Physical abuse (child abuse) is the deliberate application of force to any part of a child’s body, which results or may result in a non-accidental injury. Physical abuse may include shaking, choking, biting, kicking, burning, poisoning, holding a child under water, or any other harmful or dangerous use of force or restraint. Most child physical abuse is associated with physical punishment or is confused with child discipline.

Sexual abuse (child abuse) occurs when an adult or youth uses a child for sexual purposes. Sexual abuse includes fondling, intercourse, incest, sodomy, exhibitionism, and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.

Neglect/failure to provide (child abuse)occurs when a child’s parents or caregivers do not provide the requisite attention to the child’s emotional, psychological, or physical development.

Emotional maltreatment (child abuse) involves acts or omissions by parents or caregivers that cause or could cause serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. Emotional maltreatment can include verbal threats, socially isolating a child, intimidation, exploitation, terrorizing, or routinely making unreasonable demands on a child.”

What’s missing off the above definitions is exposure to domestic violence which I talked about in my last blog post, that can be just as detrimental to the child witnessing it as it can to the person being abused.

Long-term Effects of Child Abuse:

“The impact of child abuse does not end when the abuse stops and the long-term effects can interfere with day-to-day functioning. However, it is possible to live a full and constructive life, and even thrive – to enjoy a feeling of wholeness, satisfaction in your life and work as well as genuine love and trust in your relationships. Understanding the relationship between your prior abuse and current behaviour is the first step towards ‘recovery’.

Over two decades of research have demonstrated potential negative impact of child abuse and neglect on mental health including:”

  • depression
  • anxiety disorders
  • poor self-esteem
  • aggressive behaviour
  • suicide attempts
  • eating disorders
  • use of illicit drugs
  • alcohol abuse
  • post-traumatic stress
  • dissociation
  • sexual difficulties
  • self-harming behaviours
  • personality disorders.

“Failure to acknowledge the reality of trauma and abuse in the lives of children, and the long-term impact this can have in the lives of adults, is one of the most significant clinical and moral deficits of current mental health approaches.

Trauma in the early years shapes brain and psychological development, sets up vulnerability to stress and to the range of mental health problems.”

Complex trauma generally refers to traumatic stressors that are interpersonal. That is, they are premeditated, planned, and caused by other people, such as being violated and/or exploited by another person.

“It stands to reason that the most devastating types of trauma are those that occur at the hands of caregivers. Child abuse, occurring in the context of a trust relationship, involves significant betrayal of the responsibilities of those relationships. In addition, it is often private and the child is cautioned or threatened to not disclose its occurrence. Unfortunately, when such abuse is observed or a child does disclose the abuse, adequate and helpful response is lacking, resulting in another betrayal and another type of trauma that has been labeled secondary traumatization or institutional trauma. It is for these additional reasons that complex traumatization is often compounded and cumulative and becomes a foundation on which other traumatic experiences occur repeatedly over the course of the individual’s life. Research studies have repeatedly found that when a child is abused early in life, especially sexually, it renders him/her much more vulnerable to additional victimization. As a result survivors of child abuse can become caught in an ongoing cycle of violence and re-traumatization over their life course, especially if the original abuse continues to go unacknowledged and the after-effects unrecognized and untreated.”

Children are our most precious and vulnerable human beings and we need to do everything we can to ensure their safety, healthiness and happiness. Healthy adults raise healthy children and the only way that can happen is if the cycle of abuse is broken for good.



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