What I Want Others to Know About Child Abuse
Anyone who knows me knows how involved I am in awareness months. I paint my nails, post quotes and in general, do everything I can to support the cause. So April, is no different. However, this has taken me quite a bit to write as I am still not completely sure how to put into words everything I want to express. Warning: controversial thoughts and feelings ahead.
As a future social worker, child abuse prevention is a topic that is extremely close to my heart. Want some startling statistics? Nearly five children in the US alone die daily as a result of child abuse. Their lives needlessly ended. That doesn’t take into account the ones who are rescued from the abusive situations, the ones who continue to struggle and the ones we may never know about. About 80 percent of children who were abused grow up to have one or more psychological disorders.
To any parents or future parents:
Being a parent is hard — and often nasty — work. Being a parent means picking up poop. Being a parent means you will have vomit all over you. Being a parent means that six week old moldy sandwich container. Being a parent means someone literally staring at you while you pee or when they get older talking through the door at you. Being a parent means crumby hands and sticky kisses. Being a parent means wiping off the mascara that is running down your daughter’s cheek.
Being a parent means tiny white lies. Being a parent means laughing at that joke that wasn’t funny and telling them that their scribbles look wonderful. It means Santa is real (and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny).
Being a parent means making sacrifices. Being a parent means waking up at 2 a.m. to a crying child and consoling them (and no, I don’t just mean when they’re a baby), when you have to be up in four hours. Being a parent means running to the store at 10 o’clock at night for that poster board they knew they needed months ago when all you want to do is sit down and take five seconds to relax. Being a parent means choosing to be the last one to sit down and eat… every single time. Being a parent means your drink of choice is Gatorade at a soccer game and your concerts are in a sweaty gym put on by your own favorite musician. Being a parent means holding your head high and putting on that cape, when all you want to do is cry.
Being a parent isn’t always pretty. It’s hard and it’s messy and frustrating and exhausting, but I believe it’s worth it. Being a parent means loving someone unconditionally, even when you don’t like them. As my mother has always taught me, there is a difference between liking and loving someone. It means more hugs and kisses than one could ever imagine. It means having someone who looks at you like you put the stars in the sky. It means screaming matches and the tears that follow. It means making the hard decisions and doing what’s best even when they argue and don’t understand. It means hurting right alongside someone. It means wanting to give someone not just the world, but the entire galaxy. It means having someone who loves you the same way, and forgives you and never sees you any different, despite everything.
Being a parent means things even I don’t understand yet, as they are things only parents can truly know.
In my opinion, when you have a child, these are the things you agree to. For better, or for worse. I will never understand how one can purposely hurt one of the greatest blessings life offers. When you become a parent, you willingly and fully take responsibility for the care, well-being and safety of that child. In my opinion, it isn’t about you anymore.
Being a parent does not mean having a servant. Being a parent does not mean having a trophy. Being a parent does not mean having a punching bag. Being a parent does not mean having someone you can speak to any which way because they will always forgive you.
If being a parent means your child has to spend the rest of their life healing, I believe you are not a parent. If being a parent means that when your child hears your voice they are physically ill, I believe you are not a parent. If being a parent means your child grows up afraid of being touched, I believe you are not a parent. If being a parent means scars that are deeper than any physical wound, I believe you are not a parent. If being a parent means the greatest lesson your child learns from you is what not to do, I believe you are not a parent.
To me, being a parent means, “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.”
If being a parent means anything else to you, I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.
To anyone who has been abused:
It would take me a million years and I even then would not be able to fully put into words everything I want to express to you. I know these words may not mean much. Abuse isn’t something you can overcome overnight and the words in your head and pain in your heart are probably loud and demanding. However, there are a few things you should know. You are never alone. I know it may seem like it, all too often. You’re right, your experience is entirely unique and no one can fully understand what you went through.
Nonetheless, I am here to tell you others can understand how you are feeling. There are people who believe in you and the beauty of your dreams. When I sat down to write this, I began to cry honestly with the overwhelming thoughts and feelings I wanted to express. I cannot possibly do it as well as others have in the past. So, I did not write all of this (I did write much of it though), but nonetheless, it is still just as important and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.
You are not a monster. You are a valuable, unique, wonderful human being who deserves everything grand that this life has to offer. Come out of the shadows and stand proudly in who you are.
You are not damaged. You are whole, regardless of having struggles. I like you the way you are. I wouldn’t change you. I see you differently than you see yourself. I am not afraid of you or your struggles… I am amazed by you. I am amazed by your courage, willpower, gifts and talents. I accept you, and your worlds of light and darkness. Some people just have a “neighborhood” in their mind and they never get lost. You have endless terrain to explore, but sometimes you take a wrong turn and can’t find your way home. I love your vast landscape and remember… we can make you maps. You can figure out how to stay safe and still sail on majestic seas of emotion.
You are not “crazy.” You are not violent. You are not the lame stereotypes.
The world needs you and your story. You have been to hell and back and you are here to say, “It gets better.” When a person is struggling, many people look away. They change the subject or suddenly need a drink refill. You reach your hand out into the darkness to find theirs. You share your lantern. You’re not afraid of darkness, because you know it… You had coffee with darkness yesterday. He brought donuts. He doesn’t scare you like before. You know how to work with him.
You are creative, artistic and a dreamer. That same imagination that exhausts you with sad images and fearful scenarios can also dream up amazing art, music, business ventures, etc. You’ve held so much pain that is now energy you can use… What are you going to do with it? Create or destruct? Choose create.
Just because you are different, doesn’t mean you are broken. Different people change the world, because they can see beyond what is.
Yes, challenges will come but you can face them with all that you are when they are here. Focus on what is in front of you. Life is too short to be absent from it.
Please believe me when I say not everyone will hurt you like they did.
We all make mistakes. We all act out of pain or confusion and do hurtful things. We are all human. It’s time to forgive yourself for everything. Guilt and shame slow your ship down too and you are ready to live free from them. You’re gaining more and more speed… You are ready for life to take you to the most beautiful places.
Please remember to laugh and be ridiculous. Remember what you are grateful for. Remember the small joys and the big joys. Think back on a time when a friend or family member made you laugh till you peed a little. Watch a funny movie. Take a bubble bath that smells like marshmallows. Take a mental health day and don’t feel one ounce of guilt.
There is a separate category of people who fight every odd and stand with a grace.
They are the survivors. Remember every time when you were told you are too much, too much drama, too intense, too much to be with. Since when did “too much” become wrong? Be proud that you are that one. These are your unique qualities that you should be proud of. After all you are too much. Too much love, too much kindness and too much spirit.
You should always be proud of your scars. They tell about your battles. They tell the story how after every hurdle you still survived. You faced the world with your grace. You still have that fire in you that can shame the volcanoes. You breath fire and courage every time. You are made up of the toughest platinum ever made. There is a whole art dedicated to cover the scars with lacquered gold to preserve the history of the beautiful object. Remember you are a human, then how come your scars can’t be preserved with the lacquered gold.
Believe me, you are the person the world needs most. Because your spirit is untouched. You hold the power to change the world. Yes, you are the one that makes history.
I am sorry, whenever and whoever made you feel less, who hurt you and put those thoughts in mind that you are nothing. Remember one thing. Not everyone can see your beauty. Even when you are the peachiest peach in the world, there will be one who hate peaches. It is not your fault. Be fierce, be brave and let your dragons breathe fire. Nothing can stop the Phoenix in you rising from the ashes.
To everyone reading this (yes, you):
The end of April is not the end of child abuse. This is not a problem that will go away anytime soon, and it takes each and every one of us to help. Know the signs. Speak up and be the voice for the voiceless, even if your voice shakes. Do not overlook anyone’s pain. Abuse is a nasty word, but one we must speak. For, as long as there is silence, there will be children struggling alone. Let us not let anyone become another statistic.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via Archv