Child Psychological Abuse: What Would You Call It?

An Introduction to Child Psychological Abuse

Part 1

What Would You Call It?

America has become mentally anesthetized and emotionally distanced from child abuse.  We’ve built our own inaccurate, but personally tolerable view, based on:

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil.

 In this series of blog posts, The Alliance takes off the blindfolds, takes out the ear plugs and takes the gags out of our mouths.  We are charged with stopping child psychological abuse in our family because no one else will.  That means that we must have an accurate picture of what child abuse is and be able to explain it to others.  After all, this is our area of expertise.


We are who we are because our (ex)-partners have and/or are

seriously abusing our children.  We need to stop the child abuse.

We need to separate our children from the abuse and from the abuser.


 What Is Child Abuse?

 When I googled “child abuse,” I found  countless  independent organizations trying to raise awareness.  I also found another group of organizations trying to provide some support for children who have gone through child sexual abuse.  I didn’t find anyone trying to stop the child abusers, except us.  

Just that little bit of googling "child abuse," raised 3 flags for me.

First, most of the organizations use the statistics cited by the federal government's  Children’s Bureau. Unfortunately, these statistics are woefully inaccurate and grossly underreported.  (But that’s another story).   Every site readily admits this, but oh well.  It’s as close as they can get right now.  The last report I read from the Children’s Bureau was the 2013 Maltreatment Report (the most recent, found here).  They stated that between 2009-2013 the overall rates of victimization declined, from 9.3 to 9.1 per 1,000 children in the population. This results in an estimated 23,000 fewer victims in 2013 (679,000) compared with 2009 (702,000).

§  Since 2009, overall rates of children who received a CPS response increased from 40.3 to 42.9 per 1,000 children in the population. This results in an estimated 145,000 additional children who received a CPS response in 2013 (3,188,000) compared to 2009 (3,043,000). States provide possible explanations for the increase in Appendix D, State Commentary.

§  Nationally, four-fifths (79.5%) of victims were neglected, 18.0 percent were physically abused, 9.0 percent were sexually abused and 8.7 percent were psychologically maltreated.

§  For 2013, a nationally estimated 1,520 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.04 children per 100,000. children in the national population.

Blah, blah, blah, blah.  Well, glory be!  Sounds like the government's got this thing under control except for…those accuracy and reporting problems I mentioned before.

Second, the sites that I looked at were almost exclusively focused on sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse can mean a lot of different things, according to our government.  All of which raise the hair on the back of my neck. Even Dr. Childress rates sexual abuse (or more specifically incest) as the worst type of abuse with narcissistic and borderline not far behind.   

 It isn’t the act alone that causes all the long term damage.  The most serious type of sexual abuse is when the sexual abuser is a parent.  These children become sexual prisoners in their own homes.  They are psychologically abused to allow this to happen without anyone finding out.  These kids are silenced by their terror and shame, paralyzed by their father’s (98% of sexual abusers are male) threats and have been psychologically groomed to protect him. 

A parent who can cross the generational boundary to have some type of sexual contact with their non-consenting child is someone we all need to be protected from.   Someone that, I would guess, probably demonstrates narcissistic and borderline patterns of behavior.   This is not bad parenting.

Third, I have a problem calling any of this child abuse. I googled the definition of  abuse and found this:

To use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.

treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.

 I’ve never been one to nitpick words, especially in this case because  I am an animal rights advocate.   But I bet that some parents would take issue with the idea that child abuse is on equal footing with animal abuse (according to the definition).  I really think we need to be more specific. 

Child physical and sexual abuse are both contradictory terms. Generally, "abuse" differes from "violence" in that violence implies that the attack resulted in physical harm.  Obviously there is physical harm with physical and sexual abuse so these would be more accurately called child physical violence and child sexual violence.  Psychological abuse alone results in significant changes in the child’s physical brain, which affects a child’s growth, development and system functioning.  I don’t think anyone would argue that this isn’t physical harm.  In addition,  psychological abuse usually co-occurs with physical or sexual assaults making this violence even more devastating. Whenever a child shows symptoms of  external harm there will also be serious  internal harm.  That all counts as violence in my biology book.

The "googled" definition of abuse above does include 4 critical elements that all these assaults have in common; 1) the parent,  2) regularly and repeatedly, 3) uses our children, and 4) treats them with cruelty and violence.

Think about it and let me know.  What would you call it?