Love shouldn’t hurt – ever – 02/05/20

by Teresia Smith Love Me Forever? Many people have read the book Love You Forever. Most people will tell you they can’t read it to the end without tears. The book tells of a young woman holding her newborn son. She looks at him lovingly and softly she sings to him, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always; As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” Those are the words to Love You Forever. It is one of the most recognizable titles of children’s books, and it always stirs the reader’s emotions. The main part of the story is pretty simple: a mother starts singing this song to her son when he’s a baby, and then the story follows him through all the stages of his life. At every step of the way, his mother is there, singing him to sleep with their special song — even after he’s married, moved out and has kids of his own. It is a testament of a parent’s never ending love for their child. A love that is pure and sacrificial – the type of love all children deserve and long for. The love from a parent who would never hurt their child but would protect and nurture them. Sadly, not all children are showered with this love. Many children are living in abusive homes where this love is not known. Instead of being showered with loving words, songs and affection, they are screamed at, ignored, beaten, neglected and sexually assaulted. This childhood abuse continues to affect these children later on. By adulthood, studies have shown that as many as one in four children have experienced at least one incident of abuse in their childhood. Psychologists at Yale released studies that estimate about one-third of children who are abused in childhood will become abusers themselves, so a cycle is born. Their research also shows that adults who were abused as children are at a higher likelihood of adult problems such as depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and personality issues, as well as relationship problems. When looking at statistics, large numbers of prostitutes, violent criminals, alcoholics, drug abusers and psychiatric patients were victims of child abuse. Many adult victims of child abuse tell their therapists, “Well, it wasn’t so bad”, and, “I was a bad kid, so I got what I deserved.” They bought into their parent’s damaging words and placed the blame on themselves instead of their abusive parents. It is sometimes very difficult to face the fact that their parents were cruel and their abuse was wrong. I have talked with multiple adult victims of childhood assault by their parents, and I hear similar stories from each. As children then and adults now, it rocks them to their core as they try to work through the emotions from the abuse. It is very difficult to fathom how the people who you are supposed to be able to trust the most, the ones who are supposed to love you the most, the ones who are supposed to protect you the most are the very ones who hurt you so deeply. Our brains and emotions are wired to expect our parents to be our safe place, and when they are the ones who hurt us, it makes us feel the whole world makes no sense. If your safe place isn’t safe after all, then where is there any safety? Who can you count on? Who will protect and nurture you? These are all hard questions, and these are very hard emotions to work through. Many survivors are able to overcome their trauma if they have emotional support of close friends, trusted relatives or someone with whom they can talk. Working through their feelings, they are able to comprehend that they were not at fault for the abusive actions of their parents and they are able to understand the conflicting emotions of still loving their parents but recognizing that the abusive behaviors were wrong. Successfully overcoming childhood abuse and limiting the negative consequences in adulthood takes a lot of time and having loving support in place. If you need support in overcoming childhood abuse, Crisis Services of North Alabama is here for you. Our Jackson County office offers services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Our services are free and confidential. You may reach our advocates at 256.587.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000.

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