As managing editor of The Invisible Scar, I’m always open to receiving your emails and comments. Sometimes, I get a flurry of emails on a theme or that have answers that benefit more than one person. I tackle those questions in a monthly post called From the Mailbox.
Here’s a look at the emails that hit my inbox and questions that led folks to The Invisible Scar this month. I’m jotting my thoughts regarding those questions, but do keep in mind that this site is not a substitute for professional advice. (For that, please find a good therapist you can trust.)
Here’s what’s on readers’ minds this month:
“How can I spread awareness about emotional child abuse?”
Dispel the silence. Let people know that emotional child abuse is real. It exists.
To paraphrase the writer Baudelaire, the greatest trick of the devil is to convince you that he doesn’t exist. That lack of belief in its existence allows evil to flourish. Evil flourishes when no one speaks against it.
You can spread awareness in many ways:
- Write about emotional child abuse and share those articles online.
- Write about your personal story in a blog. Many people do this under pseudonyms to protect their private lives. Be aware that writing a personal blog does open you up to receive negative comments because trolls exist on the Web.
- Use your social media platforms to share information about emotional child abuse. Are you on Facebook? Share articles about emotional child abuse there. On Twitter? Tweet about it. You need not be the Debbie Downer of your social network, though; share articles about emotional child abuse and good parenting, tips for parental time-outs, how to speak to one’s children, etc. At The Invisible Scar, we focus solely on emotional child abuse because that’s why we’re all gathering here. But on your social networks, vary the content for your audience.
- Be honest about your childhood when discussing it with friends and family. You don’t have to corner people at parties and go painstakingly through every detail, but be honest and brief in discussing it.
- Reach out to people who are hurting. One of the greatest pains of suffering emotional child abuse is the feeling of being isolated, unwanted, and not understood. When possible, reach out in love and kindness and listening to those hurting. Just listening to someone who hurts makes an enormous difference in a person’s life.
- Mindfully step in when you hear someone being mistreated. You can speak up for others without attacking the parent; just be kind and subtle. A true story: Years ago, I was in line at the grocery store and minding my baby girl when a lady and her preteen daughter stood behind me. The lady looked at my baby girl and said, “Oh, she’s so cute! They’re adorable at that age. And then, they become THIS.” And she pointed to the preteen. I replied, “Every age is a good one. And how awesome that you have a girl who you can chat with and do fun things with.” And the lady said, “Hm, I guess” and grew quiet, and the preteen gave me the loveliest big smile.
- Pray for survivors of emotional child abuse. People always use prayer as a last resort. “It’s the least we can do.” No, it’s the most. Prayer is lifting our hearts to God, and we can lift survivors of emotional child abuse in our prayers. The prayers may not change the abusers—God gave everyone free will—but the prayers can help those who hurt. Know that I keep all readers of The Invisible Scar in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.
“How can I maintain a relationship with an abusive parent?”
Adult survivors of emotional child abuse want to be able to have healthy, loving relationships with their parents… but their parents are toxic people.
That longing is a scar that adult survivors of emotional child abuse bear. It exists. The scar shows that the adult survivor was wounded. But it cannot be undone.
However, an adult survivor can make sure not to put himself or herself in a situation to receive yet even more scars from the toxic parent.
Of course, only you can decide whether to remain in a relationship with abusive parents. But at The Invisible Scar, we encourage No Contact with abusers. (The author of Cutting Ties: Knowing When It’s Time to Walk Away at Luke 17:3 Ministries has questions to help you make that decision.)
“Why is my mother emotionally abusive?”
The short answer is that no one knows for sure.
Some psychologists talk about a cycle of emotional abuse. A child was emotionally abused by a parent who was once emotionally abused by a parent who was once emotionally abused by a parent, etc. But if that cycle cannot be broken, then why is it? Why do some adult survivors end up not emotionally abusing their children?
Some scientists mention that it could be genetics. But then that doesn’t quite make sense either. Alcoholism makes sense due to the physical component of alcoholism. But how can there be a gene for being a horrific parent?
You can look at the specifics of your own family tree and perhaps get to a mild understanding of how this abuse has emerged.
But for the sake of healing, it’s best to not focus on the why.
“What can I do about smear campaigns against me?”
A smear campaign is more than someone just saying something rude about you. It’s the systematic shredding of someone’s reputation by spreading lies, accusations, and insinuations.
“False Accusations, Distortion Campaigns and Smear Campaigns can all be used with or without a grain of truth, and have the potential to cause enormous emotional hurt to the victim or even impact their professional or personal reputation and character,” states Out of the FOG.
“[Smear campaigners] hide behind a cloak of upstanding heroism and feigned innocence in an attempt to make as many people as possible think their efforts are based not on their vindictiveness, but on upstanding concern,” writes Light on her blog.
So, what can you do about it?
You may feel inclined to do some or all of the following:
- Defend yourself by confronting the smear campaigner
- Defend yourself to every person who has heard the smear campaigner’s accusations
- Take the smear campaigner to court for slander
- Launch a smear campaign against your abuser in retaliation
- Ignore the smear campaigns
- Talk to your closest friends about the smear campaigns, the truth regarding them, and ignore the smear campaigner
Every situation is different. Only you can decide whether to do 1 or 2; that may depend on your relationship with other people who know your abuser. In a family situation, you may have some relatives who you still want a relationship with, and you may want to discuss the reality of the situation with them.
Option 3 requires that you talk to a family lawyer about the situation. As I am not a lawyer, I can’t offer an expert advice on this matter. Option 4 sounds like a terrible idea, which will only escalate the situation. I strongly urge you not to retaliate. Options 5 and 6 seem to be the best options.
As painful and terrible as a smear campaign is, it will weed out the false friends and lukewarm relatives from your life. Anyone who knows you and loves you will not listen to the reputation-shredding gossip. You will be presented with a very clear view of the battlefield, of who is on your side and who is on the side of the abusive parent.
Your army of friends and relatives who stand beside you may be very small. You may even find yourself alone on the battlefield, with the corpses of old relationships all around you. But you will not be shredded. You will still be standing, you will be alive in the truth. You will be stronger than you ever thought possible because you didn’t let fear or other people’s opinions of you determine who you are.
* * *
Living in the truth and light can be so hard at first for adult survivors of emotional child abuse. They’re used to live in a hazy, nebulous reality created by their abusers. Adult survivors are accustomed to trying to find value in who they are by seeking the approval of others and adapting who they are to others expectations.
But in awakening to the reality of the emotional child abuse, adult survivors can start moving towards a life in the light and truth. They can start extracting themselves from the entanglements of abusive relationships. They can begin to understand that it’s better to be seemingly alone in the truth than to be surrounded by liars.
Why did I say “seemingly”? Because you are not alone. You’re here among others who share similar experiences. And you matter.