Today I’m going to visit one of my kids, a special little boy in foster care, awaiting an adoptive home.
He is also a traumatized little boy–traumatized by his own parents, who abused him for years–until someone finally reported them to DSS for suspicion of abuse, and the State intervened. Why did it take so long? Because there were no marks upon his body–his abuse was rarely (if ever) physical.
Child abuse comes in many forms–and they are all damaging.
This child experienced isolation–he was 4 and had hardly ever even made it as far as his own front yard. He was inside the house most of the time. And it wasn’t pleasant inside that house–he spent a lot of time hiding under the bed or in a closet–hiding from the emotional abuse of yelling, threats, name-calling. He was four. His most frequent emotion? Fear. In fact, when he first came into foster care, he would run from the room in terror whenever someone new entered the room. His foster mom reported that every time the doorbell rang, he ran and sometimes couldn’t be coaxed out of whatever safe space he’d chosen for hours.
He had never been exposed to other children his own age–not at school or church or a playground. He didn’t even know how to play–he had to be taught. He had never been encouraged or allowed to play–in fact, that sort of thing was discouraged not just through isolation but also through emotional abuse. Can you imagine? A child to whom you have to explain play! And who you constantly have to reassure that it’s ok to laugh, to cry, to squeal in excitement, that it’s ok to go outside and to run and jump and do summersaults in the grass (supervised of course).
To our knowledge, his parents never hit him or kicked him or otherwise physically harmed him, but the damage they did was just as great. He will likely never fully recover from his early life experiences. After all, as I’ve noted before, there are some wounds that time can’t heal.
In 2011, throughout the United States, there were reported 676,569 victims of child abuse and neglect. Over 25% of those were under the age of 3. Another 20% were between the ages of 3 and 5.
April is National Child Abuse Awareness month. Learn more about recognizing and understanding emotional abuse and spread the word because you may be able to help save a child.
This is a disclaimer you should read if you haven’t already.