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“Emotional child abuse wreaks life-long havoc on an individual”
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“Emotional child abuse wreaks life-long havoc on an individual”

The causes of emotional child abuse often seem to be invisible, yet the effects can be irreversible, reports Samantha Khan, 19, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Trinidad & Tobago.

Silent. Savage. Scarring. Emotional child abuse.

A menacing monster hiding in plain sight, undetected, shadowed by the more glaring ills of society, threatening to erode the minds of our young people.

It creeps like a cloaked demon beneath the radar of detection, its signs never clear, its effects never seen because so few understand it and even less consider it to be a real problem.

After seeing far too many teenagers suffer silently, I decided to carry out an investigation in the hope of shedding some light on this all too forgotten issue and, by extension, shining some light into the hearts and lives of those affected.

Emotional abuse is more than just verbal abuse. It is, in simple terms, an attack on a child’s emotional and social development. The American National Centre of Child Abuse and Neglect defines it as “acts or omissions that have caused or could cause serious behavioural, cognitive, mental or emotional disorders”. It can take shape through belittling, emotional coldness, moral corruption, cruelty, extreme inconsistency, harassment, ignoring, inappropriate control, isolation, rejection and terrorising.

These things damage the child’s view of him or herself, contributing to negative self-perception, low self-esteem and harsh self-criticism. In addition, the child is robbed of the ability to form functional, meaningful relationships with others since he or she is unacquainted with real love and unable to trust others. This is a direct result of the unpredictability of the abuser’s behaviour. The victim forever expects to be abandoned by those he or she cares about and, as such, finds it difficult to open up to others. This adds to self-criticism since the victim believes that he or she must be perfect in order to be loved.

The effects of emotional abuse are deeply disfiguring and cause repercussions late into adulthood, even after all ties with the abuser have long disappeared or the mistreatment has decelerated. A victim lives with core feelings of being worthless and damaged. No matter how hard he may try to escape it, no matter how many people tell him otherwise, he can never truly release that opinion of himself because it was hammered into him during his formative teenage years.

In addition, a victim is severely prone to self-destructive behaviour, always under the impression that he or she must punish himself for even the slightest mistakes. Also, studies show that a victim of emotional maltreatment is at a higher risk for eating disorders, self-mutilation, substance abuse, criminal behaviour, aggression, personality disorders, depression and suicide. Because of the stigma associated with this type of behaviour and the fear of being punished by the abuser, victims often go to great lengths to conceal the trauma.

Another troubling facet of this matter was unearthed in a first-hand interview with a young lady who has suffered emotional abuse for seventeen years. She admitted that, despite all of the negative aspects of her relationship with her abuser, she still loves this person dearly. Thus, she was heavily plagued by guilt. This is perhaps the most alarming feature of emotionally abusive relationships. The victim and the abuser often do share love, toxic though it may be.

This poisonous “love”, guilt and irrational fear cause many victims to adopt an air of seeming happiness, hiding behind a perpetual smile. Indeed, there are too many people who walk around with a spring in their step, only to be beaten down behind closed doors, as the oblivious world continues to turn.

All things considered, emotional child abuse wreaks life-long havoc on an individual. The causes are oftentimes invisible, the effects irreversible. Even when detected, one can never truly break free from the shackles or heal the wounds left behind.

The victims need love, patience and understanding in order to salvage some semblance of normality and, hopefully, even happiness. Without it, they are in danger of being lost, forever confined to a life of loneliness, left to drown in their own despair.

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About me:

“Hello! I’m a student from Trincity, Trinidad, and I love to write, read and sometimes draw. I would live in the cinema if I had the choice. I enjoy learning about as many different cultures as I possibly can.

“My dream is to become a novelist and through that, to challenge the stereotypes and constraints of society, as well as to provide thought-provoking material to shed new light on life itself. I believe that if we all shine a little light into the world, it will inevitably become a brighter place.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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