Child Abuse

The Deepest Betrayal

Child abuse is the bitterest betrayal. A child, helpless and unable to make fully informed choices, present strong resistance, or pursue a safe escape, has a right to expect adult protection and support. Child abuse, whether through violence, emotional abuse, or sexual molestation, breaks faith with the obligation owed to all children. When abuse happens to a child, it is imperative that efforts be made to provide new security for a child, and then to heal the damage done as humanly possible.

Living up to the obligation:

  • A child in adult hands
  • Help and healing
  • Finding a professional to help

A Major Commitment

We owe children an obligation, whether they are our own or not. Until a child is fit to function as a self-supporting and informed adult, we have an obligation not to take advantage of their lack of power or protection to inflict damage, or demand submission to acts that aren’t in their own best interests. The obligation of power includes the obligation to use that power in good faith, and no form of child abuse can be considered “good faith.”

This is even truer because so many necessary things are forced on children. From tetanus shots to mandatory education, from toilet training to attending family gatherings, children are constantly reminded of their helplessness and lack of power. When they are able to feel faith and comfort that these things they suffer are imposed only to ensure their own well-being, they can abide in love and security. When they are forced to suffer things that are not so clearly in their own interest, but merely the whim or desperate desire of a stronger, more powerful adult, the security based on trust is shattered.

Helping children recover from such shattering experiences demands the skill and patience of trained professionals.

Long-term Effects

Abuse can have life-long affects on those who suffer it, or those who are exposed to the suffering of others. Rape and molestation, domestic violence, humiliation, cruelty, bullying – all these can leave permanent scars on the mental and emotional development of children. Treating those scars isn’t a simple thing, though.

The very lack of understanding, power, and self-control, and the lack of social awareness, makes treatment of children a complex challenge. A child can be hurt, and unable to say so, much less say how. A child can be insecure, but not know why. A child can grieve, but have no idea what to do about the grieving. A counselor or coach has to combine training with direct observation, and gently interact with a child, trying to guide him or her to a point where pain, fear, and betrayal have been dealt with. In addition, counselors must know that these healings are often only the first rounds of many, as each shift in a child’s life can reopen scars, or demand new closure and understanding.

Finding a Great Counselor

Finding a counselor with the skill and training to help heal an abused child is a challenge. The match between counselor and child must be right. If it is right, the parents must be able to support and reinforce the counselor. That requires good communications on all sides, and a good alignment between the adults and the child.

Finding such a counselor is often best left in the hands of a good referral agency. With the training to make good matches, and the background information to know and understand the strengths and weaknesses of skilled professionals, referral agencies are well placed to bring patients and
counselors together.

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