Dear Sue Ellen,
I believe a person should keep their family’s dirty laundry to themselves. It can ruin the reputations of innocent family members, and nothing can be done to eliminate what has happened in the past. Everybody has an opinion about what child abuse is and what family violence is. What seems like abuse to one family may seem normal to another family. I wish you would be more sensitive when you talk about abuse and violence in this column.
I appreciate your comments. It is true…when there is an outcry of abuse, it can tear a family apart. Some people will deny it altogether; some will get angry and lash out at the victim or alleged abuser; some people will walk away from the whole situation. People get hurt; innocent people. Is it too late to mend a broken family when something ugly falls out of the family closet?
Sometimes I think about abuse like this: You are minding your own business and all of a sudden you get bit by a spider. The bite swells and gets red; then it starts itching and burning; then you run a low grade fever, but you ignore it. Over time, the area becomes infected and now it is inflamed and swollen. The wound is full of puss and all kinds of nastiness. You finally go to the doctor and find out it needs to be lanced. There will be stitches and it will leave an ugly scar. What is going to be your choice? Do you live with the scar or die with the infection?
Sometimes the damage done to families through generational abuse becomes irrevocable. The family unit dies from the infection that came from shame and guilt. Therapists tell me that bottling up bad experiences will not cause them to go away. Eventually they will fester and ooze out in not-so-good ways. Research supports that as well. Don’t believe me? Google the Center on Disease Control; look up child maltreatment and family violence. You can also learn a lot from the Texas Attorney General’s Office website about domestic violence.
I know some brave people that have come out with their story of child abuse or victimization. It wasn’t a pretty or easy journey; and yes…for some, it did rip their families apart. But some families can put the shattered pieces back together and their ugly scars become beauty marks over time, signifying their love for each other, determination and bravery.
I can’t promise to be more sensitive about this topic. Nobody wants to hear or think about child abuse, but ignoring it won’t make it go away. I will promise to stay passionate about it and do everything in my power to stamp out family abuse and violence before it occurs.
Please email your parenting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Parent’s Corner” on the subject line.