Finally we are going to have a Royal Commission into abuse of children by various agencies. That is good. But it is important that the enquiry does not swamp the present needs of the victims of abuse. Child/adult victims of abuse need much more than an enquiry into the events and the punishment of perpetrators.
Dealing with perpetrators is only the beginning.
Instead of a political blog today I am publishing excerpts from the draft introduction to a project I am working on with the hope that it will help to shift the focus from the perpetrators to the needs of the victims. Remove the perpetrators yes, but we must not stop there.
This blog includes all abused children, not only the children covered by the Royal Commission. Abuse is abuse and quarantining one area creates further problems for those outside the terms of the Royal Commission unless the there is the understanding that this is just one aspect of a much bigger problem.
There is an issue that is central for abused children. In later life how do they know what a caring relationship feels like? If a child has never felt the caring of being held by a loving parent how can they know what a loving embrace feels like when they become adults? How can an abused child accept success when their experience has been ridicule for all their efforts? How does an abused child know anything about positive feels?
The short answer is that they do not. And when they have children of their own how do they know how to show their children the things they have never known? A major barrier to recovery from an abused childhood is ‘What happens then?’ The problem is not so much what happened but what could have been.
What if an abused child accidently stumbles into a caring relationship? The most likely is that they will either run away or abuse their partner until their partner leaves. Trying to give care and support to someone from an abused background is often an exercise in futility. They will probably never recognize care and support as care and support. Also caring will be so alien to them that they will run away.
There is a saying attributed to Jesus that comes in many forms. ‘If you evict a demon from your house fill the rooms quickly lest he return with seven of his brothers.’ This is a major problem. If an abused child overcomes some aspect of abuse what do they replace it with?
If an abused child avoided abusive relationship how does he/she replace it with a caring relationship when he/she has no idea what a caring relationship looks like? Unless it is decided not to be a relationship the most likely outcome is another abusive relationship. Abusive relationships are familiar.
So round in circles it goes.
Abuse begets abuse. Relationships become ‘different face same person.’ It is all familiar and comfortable and is just one big circle.
There is nothing new in understanding abuse by spotting the patterns. Often there are circles within circles and the circles that will pass from generation to generations.
If I want to help an adult coming from an abused childhood several things have to happen. The stars would have to line up the wind has to be blowing from the North West at eight knots and there has to a enormous amount of luck. The timing has to be perfect and, the big one, the abused child/adult has to want to change.
The child/adult has to want to leave the comfort of familiarity and enter the realms of the totally unknown. It really is a step into the abyss without any guarantees that anything will be any better than before, if indeed there is anything at all. Where they are going might as well be a planet the other side of Alpha Centauri inhabited by unknown life forms.
I was lucky in that when I worked in related areas clients would present because they wanted things to change. Even then it was very hit and miss. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn‘t.
Since this is partly about childhood abuse lets starts with a child’s nursery rhyme.
I know an old lady who swallowed a fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly.
Perhaps she’ll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a spider. That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly.
Perhaps she’ll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a bird, How absurd to swallow a bird! She swallowed the bird to catch the spider. That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly.
Perhaps she’ll die.
And so on. This nursery rhyme is about trying to solve a problem by creating a bigger problem and then trying to solve the bigger problem by creating an even bigger problem.
This tendency may not be the sole province of the abused child/adult but they certainly make it an art form. Even if a relationship starts as basically a good relationship as soon as the old lady swallows the fly it is all over even if it staggers on for years. This coupled with the tendency to ignore problems makes a lasting relationship between or with an abused child/adult problematic.
Any changes in our society has to start at the beginning and solve root problem not the symptoms. That goes against entrenched attitudes.
If an abused child/adult and wants to change it is only going to happen if the pain of staying where he/she is exceeds the fear of the unknown. One way of helping abused children/adults is to lower the fear of the unknown by having a society that listens.
Hopefully the Royal Commission will go a long way to lowering the fear of the unknown.