September 18, 2006

Child Abuse - Part 3

I'm sure that many of you reading these posts are saddened by the account, but don't be. I'd rather you just learn from it, especially if you are a parent or think you will ever be a parent.

I used to be very angry and upset about what was done to me. For the most part of my adult life, I kind of considered it a secret. These days, I consider it simply a matter of fact. I'm kind of indifferent to it -- in itself.

I'm writing these posts in rapid-succession, without editing, because it is somewhat helpful for me to reprocess my thoughts on the matter although I've thought a lot about it over the past decade or so.

The first post was to document the systematic nature of the abuse in my paternal family. The second post was to describe my personal experience. And this one is to give you my reaction. I'm pointing this out because I am writing these without editing or even spellcheck and the structure or even the point may not be clear.

I want you all to know the nature of my particular situation and give some thought to the matter of child abuse.

Things could have been a lot worse. My mother could have been weak or supportive of my dad's actions. But my mother wasn't. She feels very guilty about letting it go on for as long as it did, but she did eventually do what she could to make it stop. And it stopped.

I think the fact that it wasn't worse makes it a little more nefarious because it makes my experience more likely to be downplayed. I am sure some people think, "Yeah, you were spanked a little hard and maybe too often, but you're ok now. You should let it go. At least you weren't raped or something."

I'm still talking about an outrageous crime here. I'm talking about deliberately hurting one's own children.

When my dad confronted me about being gay, the conversation turned to the nature and foundation of our relationship.

I pointed out that I do not love him. I do feel guilty every time I say it, which I do mostly out of habit, but I did explain that every time I say it to him, I'm lying just to keep the peace for mom's sake. I try to keep it to minimum. I told him that if it were up to me, I wouldn't have anything to do with him. I also told him that I won't forgive him, but I intend to do the only thing I can do to bring him to justice: not deal with him any more than I have to.

I do love and respect my mother. She and I have become good friends as adults.

But I'm pretty much a stranger to my dad.

I love children and I do want to raise a couple or five some day, but my biggest worry is that I won't be able to hold my temper and that I might spank them. I don't think any child should know the overwhelming terror that I felt: that those creatures who are supposed to take care of you might also kill you or at least hurt you.

What strikes me is the lack of a strong emotional response I have about the fact that I've been abused, though. I still hold it against my dad, but I do so dispassionately.

I used to fantasize about dramatic speeches at his or my mom's funerals. At one point, I used to even fantasize about physically hurting him back.

I'm very different from my sister and my cousins now.

Beating a child makes a long-lasting impression on their psychology even as an adult. My cousins display those traits common to my paternal family that I believe have resulted from the systematic physical/verbal/emotional abuse. My sister does as well but to a lesser degree. I show them to an even lesser degree still, but I think I'm more aware of them than my relatives and I make an effort to get a handle on those things.

Beating a child doesn't teach them not to lie. It doesn't teach them not to take things. It doesn't teach them to clean their room. It doesn't teach them anything useful.

Beating a child teaches them to fear and mistrust you. It teaches them that it is acceptable to hurt others when one is displeased. It teaches them that identifying and communicating one's feelings and finding non-violent solutions to one's problems is a wasted effort because a hand or fist or belt is a much more efficient solution.

Posted by Flibbertigibbet at September 18, 2006 09:56 PM | TrackBack

I totally agree about learning how to handle your emotions from how you are treated as a child. My mother had a short fuse, quick to scream and yell or push or throw things. She never spanked us much but she just had this rage that was so terrifying as a kid. I still feel hairs stand on end thinking about the rage in her face or her yelling when she was so angry. And sometimes I find myself do the same thing. And I hate it. I'd never want my children to see me that way.

Posted by: Britton at September 20, 2006 02:34 PM
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