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12 Everyday Childhood Moments That Turned Into Child Abuse

Editor's Note

If you have experienced childhood emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday found that physical abuse of children increased four-fold on Saturdays when school report cards were released on Fridays at public schools in Florida. The study, which highlights a regular childhood occurrence that, in this case, led to an increased risk of abuse, focused on children aged 5 to 11, and found a correlation between calls to a state child abuse hotline and Friday school report card release dates over the course of one academic year.

This correlation was only true of Friday-release dates for report cards, leading the researchers to speculate that caregivers may be too “distracted” during the week to punish their children, or may not want to leave visible traces of abuse if the child is attending school the next day.

“We know a lot about what predicts child abuse, but we don’t know when,” Dr. Melissa A.  Bright, the lead author of the study, told The New York Times. “If we have a better idea of when child abuse happens, then we can target our prevention efforts more effectively.”

While this study sheds light on the pressure to succeed academically and child abuse, it’s important to acknowledge that child abuse can enter many other typical childhood moments. To shed some light on other childhood experiences that are affected by an abusive upbringing, we asked our community to share experiences from their own lives.

It’s important to remember child abuse isn’t only physical. In fact, research has shown emotional abuse may be just as damaging to a child as physical abuse. The following answers reflect examples of physical and emotional abuse and may be emotionally distressing if you have lived through childhood abuse or have sensitivities around this topic.

Here are some other childhood moments that can be affected by child abuse:

  1. “I also remember the time I scored highest in math in my whole school, even the kids a year ahead of me. I got 99 percent and some kind of silly little teacher’s award. When I got home, I told my dad and he asked what I got on the test. I told him 99 percent, and how that was the highest grade (I was in fifth grade and even beat everyone in sixth grade). He snickered at me and was all disgusted and said it didn’t count because it wasn’t 100 percent, and told me how obviously I was not good enough.” — Ursula A.
  2. When I was young, my sisters and I had chores. Mine involved the living room. I was vacuuming the floor and apparently I was pushing it back and forth too fast and my dad came over and grabbed the vacuum over my hand and squeezed my hand onto the handle of the vacuum and yelled at me for going to fast and that I wasn’t doing it right and was just freaking out-of-his-mind angry and controlling about the whole thing. I told him to let me go and that he was hurting me and I started bawling my eyes out because I was in shock that my dad would hurt me and not hear my pleas to stop… People say I didn’t have it that bad and I shouldn’t dwell on the past. I can’t help it when I jump at things like when someone comes up behind me while I’m vacuuming. It sends me back into that panic. ‘Your trauma is valid’ — My family doesn’t believe that. I wasn’t molested or beat every day, so in their eyes, I wasn’t abused.” — Kimberly M.
  3. My mother wouldn’t buy me sanitary napkins. It was the 80s and she still used big bulky ones with a belt. I could use hers or buy my own. By 14, I was buying my own feminine hygiene products, shampoo and deodorant with babysitting money. All my own school clothes. I knew not to even ask. I’m the opposite now, making sure my daughter has everything she needs to feel comfortable in her own skin. As a parent, I’m just stunned she wouldn’t spring for the tampons I preferred. We were middle class so it wasn’t money, it was a punishment for asking for anything.” — Viki S.
  4. Going ‘back-to-school’ shopping was a horrible experience. I still get anxious around that time of year and I haven’t been in school in years.” — Liz C.
  5. “Spilling a glass of milk at the dinner table. All hell would break loose if you spilled a drink at the table.” — Tiffany L.
  6. “I wasn’t fed so my clothes were too big. That being said, my pants often fell off of me. I was mocked and yelled at because of this.” — Tessa B.
  7. “Playing with toys. If I broke anything or my brother broke something, I was getting the spanking of a lifetime.” — Violet P.
  8. “Cleaning. My dad would ‘check’ dusting with a black sock over his hand. If you missed even one place (I mean, who ever remembers to dust the *legs* of a table?) you had to dust the entire room over again. And he got stricter with his checking every time. I have ADHD, so, as you can imagine, dusting a room five or six times was a regular occurrence.” — Rebecca J.
  9. “Taking baths. My mom used to burst in and drag me out. Took almost 10 years to be able to relax in the bath and not get intense spikes of anxiety.” — Mia I.
  10. “Folding socks. I got slapped for folding socks wrong.” — Katrina O.
  11. “I had severe ADHD growing up and got in trouble a lot in middle school, mostly just for talking too much. I would often get put on ‘daily report’ for my behavior and when walking home from school, I remember getting that sick, nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach the closer I got to my house, because I knew I’d have to tell my mum, who would hit me.” — Cami L.
  12. “When my dad tried to teach me to ride my bike, I struggled a bit with it because of my physical disability, and he yelled at me the whole time, telling me how useless I was. I’m currently learning to drive, and every time I have even a minor mishap, I can still hear his voice in my head telling me how useless I am. I’m in my 30s now, and he still has that much of a hold on me.” — Lulu B.

It’s important to talk about the ways child abuse affects typical childhood moments, so we can understand the long-term impact on adulthood. If you have lived through an abusive childhood, you’re not alone. For extra support and validation, check out the following stories from survivors in our community.

25 Things You Do as an Adult When You’ve Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse

Did Childhood Emotional Abuse Cause My Mental Illness?

When Childhood Abuse Leaves You Feeling Stunted

When Childhood Emotional Abuse Makes You Grow up Feeling Invisible

I’m Finally Ready to Be Angry About the Childhood Emotional Abuse I Experienced

Getty Images photo via Juliia Tochilina

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