Child abuse and elder abuse are part of the same cycle of abuse that plagues families. It is not uncommon for a survivor of child abuse to believe they’ve done the best for their own children and then find themselves abused by their children. The cycle of abuse has to be broken or it will continue for generations.
Every parent raises their children beneath the cloud of their childhood. The way we were parented greatly influences the way we parent our children, both for the good and for bad. Those who are child abuse survivors don’t want to pass the damage and the pain to their children but if they never deal with the trauma of childhood abuse, they will propagate the cycle of abuse no matter how hard they try to treat their children differently than they were treated. A parent who is haunted by past abuse will make decisions based upon the influence of those old ghosts and miss the mark in making sound decisions for the good of their children.
No one gets out of this world without suffering some trauma. Traumas can and do heal but if the emotional and psychological damage caused by them isn’t treated correctly, they will never heal properly. The simple passing of time isn’t enough. Child abuse and childhood sexual abuse are traumas that are likely to be ignored. As children, we accept the way our parents treat us as normal and a main component of sexual abuse is the casting of shame on the victim. Shame and guilt are often used against abused children, as a means of keeping them quiet. It isn’t unusual for child abuse survivors to carry that shame and guilt well into adulthood, with their family of origin enforcing that view. Child abuse is usually, more heavily focused on one scape-goated child and the role assigned to that child is to carry the shame and guilt for the abuser and the rest of the family. This doesn’t mean that other children in the family are safe from the abuse but they are treated according to the role assigned to them by their abusive parent. Sometimes, parents participate in the abuse together but more often, one parent is the aggressor and the other passive. The passive parent is likely also, living within an assigned role and is abused by the aggressive, controlling parent. Child abuse is not always physical but it is always emotional and psychological and the lasting damage caused by all abuse is emotional and psychological.
The roles an abuser assigns to his or her children include a scape-goat and a golden-child. The scape-goated child is responsible for carrying what the abuser doesn’t want to see in themselves. The golden-child reflects that which they want to believe about themselves and their job is to be perfect and win admiration for the parent. What the two children have in common is that neither is seen as an individual by their parent but as appendages that function only by direction of the parent for the benefit of the parent. Abused children are also, often groomed to take care of the parent rather than receive the care and nurturing they need from their parents. All parents teach their children who they are by the way they view their children and train them. A scape-goated child will grow up to view themselves as defective and responsible for the happiness and well-being of others. A golden-child will grow up expecting perfection from themselves and others, believing they have the answers others need for a successful life. The scape-goated child possesses a low self-esteem, while the golden-child suffers from an over-inflated self-esteem. The scape-goated child is more likely to seek mental health care to fix their defect. Golden-children almost never seek professional help but go through life believing themselves special and thinking all people should strive to be like them. Both children will perpetuate the same cycle of abuse that formed them to their children if they never face the trauma of their childhood and change the way they view themselves and others.
The golden-child is the most likely to treat his or her children near to the same way they were treated. Golden-children identify with the abusive parent and learn to manipulate that parent by producing the admiration they are expected to deliver. The families they create will be of the same structure of role assignment, as the family they came from but may not have the same exact problems. For example, the golden-child’s parent may have been an alcoholic and the golden-child a tea-toadler. Golden-children are often religious and use religion as a means of garnering admiration for themselves and controlling their families. Any member of their family that doesn’t comply and fulfill their assigned role, is cut off. A golden-child confides in no one but handles all problems internally. They do have the ability to cause others to confide in them and the information they gain is often useful in maintaining control. Like all abused children, the golden-child doesn’t know where they end and another begins; but views their children as part of themselves, which is the definition of enmeshment, the lack of individuation. Golden-children can’t allow themselves to see the imperfections within themselves and will never consider counseling and probably, won’t admit having suffered any childhood abuse. Instead, they will likely block out unpleasant memories and carry pretense to cover the perfection that is lacking. The abuse they endured as children taught them that love is admiration and admiration is necessary for their feelings of well-being.
The scape-goated child is likely to be abused by others outside of the family and continue to accept that treatment of themselves as normal. Of course, they are aware of not having the approval and love that they desire from their parents and others but they view that as being their fault. Seeing themselves defective, they continually, strive to become someone other than themselves, hoping to finally please someone and receive love. They are prime targets for manipulators and their children will often learn to manipulate them as they see the family and others manipulate their parent. Scape-goats work very hard at trying to be good parents and often, do too much for their children. They are never sure of themselves and likely, very inconsistent in their methods of discipline. Scape-goats also, have an enmeshed view of family and see themselves as servants, responsible for the happiness and well-being of their spouse and children. Unlike the golden-child, they don’t control their families but their families control them and the scape-goat has no purpose apart from their children. If the children fail, it is the fault of the scape-goat. Like all parents, scape-goats teach their children who they are by their parenting and it isn’t uncommon for them to raise children who abuse them in the same way that they were abused by their parent; even though they bent over backward to raise their children differently. Their children may also, identify with them and view themselves as secondary. The parent’s family of origin is likely, to enforce this view. Because scape-goats see themselves as defective, they are the most likely to seek professional help and if they get the right kind of help, the cycle of abuse can be broken.
Unless childhood abuse is severe and authorities intervene, it takes childhood abuse survivors years to understand that their treatment wasn’t normal. It is common for sexual abuse survivors to dissociate and develop dissociative amnesia and black out the abuse. A survivor of sexual abuse who is also, the scape-goated child in an abusive family, is likely to be blamed by that family for the sexual abuse. The scape-goat, true to their role, accepts that responsibility and it isn’t uncommon for them to live their entire lives not understanding their own behavior. When they seek mental health care, it will most likely be for the symptoms of abuse: depression, extreme anxiety, PTSD, low self-esteem, and dissociative disorders. It is common for psychiatrists and psychologists to treat these symptoms with medication and never probe deeply enough to uncover childhood abuse. Survivors who see themselves as defective, accept the view that their brains are broken and don’t question their treatment. This is another form of abuse that abuse survivors often, willingly accept. Medications do alleviate symptoms, to some degree but they do nothing to end the cycle of abuse and it continues to be passed from one generation to the next. True healing requires removing the causes of symptoms by getting to the root of the trauma, the abuse events and understanding the emotional and psychological damage they caused. Responsibility for those events must be placed on the correct doorsteps.
Jesus said that it is the truth that sets men free and the truth is what survivors of childhood abuse need to set them and their children free from the cycle of abuse. The sooner truth is applied the better. If the abused child waits until they become an abused parent or see their grandchildren suffering from abuse, the damage can be overwhelming. However, it is never too late. When truth is applied to the lies that abuse teaches victims about themselves and others, change comes naturally, by its own accord. Just as the sickness of abuse is contagious and infects families for generations, truth is the miracle cure that has the power to set both abuse victims and abusers free. That truth is locked up in the heart and mind of every childhood abuse survivor and it is the key to ending abuse and healing the damage it causes. Jesus is the Truth and He understands and loves every abuse victim and abuser, just as they are. He is there with the spiritual strength and guidance needed in understanding all truth. He is the Way to a new Life, free of familial abuse and the damage it causes.