A family is the safe cocoon for us that supposedly protects us from the external world and keeps us safe, physically as well as emotionally. But what happens if we face danger from within the family? Who will protect us if the person causing us danger is a family member?
Imagine this scenario where a young girl is undergoing therapy for depression and the therapist gets to know that the girl had been sexually abused by her father, in her childhood. Her own father! The first thought that crosses our mind will be, how could he do that? What was he thinking? And so on. But that’s one aspect of it. My thought goes on to the child. How does she cope with this as she grows up? Is she able to get over it easily or does she continue to be traumatized by the incident/s? Will she be able to trust other human beings normally or will she be too gullible to fall for the first available support outside her family? Does her mother stand by her side and admonish the man or does she ask her daughter to sweep it under the carpet? If the mother stands by the father, is the girl able to deal with this or does she hold herself responsible for whatever is wrong? Maybe there is a perpetual conflict in her mind, maybe she considers herself unwanted since nobody takes her side on this. There could be so many issues.
Childhood trauma and long lasting effects
According to available data, in 2018, about 109 children faced sexual abuse in India every day. This data pertains to 2018. 109 children every day! So many children who are at the risk of living with this trauma for their entire life. Not only this, it is believed that during the lockdown, the number of calls received by children in distress helplines have gone up by 50%. It is also noteworthy that 90% of the abusers are believed to be someone known to the one who has been abused. The trauma of being sexually abused, and that too by someone who was trusted. Would seem like a double whammy of sorts.
While not every child is sexually abused, such kind of a traumatic experience may not be the only thing that can affect our kids. There are many small and big things that can affect them on an emotional/ mental level. Psychologists suggest that Inner child trauma is a state of mind caused by things that a child may have experienced during the childhood. There could be some emotional needs which are not yet met, some sort of insecurity during the childhood which continues to stay in the person’s life even in adulthood, some sort of guilt or shame (which also could be associated with some sort of abuse like the above), not being allowed to express their emotions and some sort of rejection. Inner Child trauma is a whole different area to reflect upon and gain insights.
Encouragement to express fearlessly
When it comes to matters like sexual abuse, being privy to domestic violence, a victim of bullying or even feelings of unworthiness, the children need to be encouraged at school as well as at home,to speak, without fear. Speaking about it fearlessly will not only garner support to face the problem but will also protect them from further damage. This damage could be physical as well as emotional; as the pent up emotions and trauma can lead to a different kind of problem.
An awareness needs to be created both, at family as well as school levels specifically with regards to sexual abuse, substance abuse and emotional well-being. The awareness could start from a basic level such as good touch and bad touch, thereby enabling the children to understand what is not allowed at all.
No perfect parents
There is no rule book for parenting or any rules for perfect parenting. Each parent is on a learning mode yet the least the parents can do is to let the children grow up without any trauma from the childhood. Low self esteem owing to lesser confidence of parents, or very critical parents, guilt due to too much pressure and not being live upto those expectations, a feeling of failure and so on, the list is endless. There are so many things that can show up later in life or affect the adult life of a person. As parents, what is important is to make the child feel worthy, to be allowed to express their emotions, to be felt heard and to let them make them their own choices. This is not to suggest that the children be left to fend for themselves. Parents definitely ought to be there for guidance and support but not to impose one’s set of beliefs or choices on them. When it comes to cultural, traditional or religious beliefs, it maybe tough to take a stand but for the other choices in life, they can be given a chance to choose and then guided accordingly rather than just making them live our unfulfilled dreams.
Happy Children grow up to be happy adults and happy adults are the ones who can make the world a better place.