Through the Eyes of a Child…
Michael, outwardly, appeared a normal 12-year-old boy. Born just before the turn of the millennium, his upbringing was closely tied to the rise of technology and the internet. He enjoyed staying inside, wrapped up in a blanket, eyes glued to the action on his Nintendo DS, as much as he enjoyed going outside to play with his friends. He felt as if he could spend all day, every day doing either, and that pesky thing called school was getting in the way and ruining his fun. “Why couldn’t school just be on Saturday and Sunday and weekends be Monday to Friday?” he would ask his teachers.
Some children have monsters under their bed, Michael’s monster was a large dominating figure that occupied the back of his subconscious. Always present. Always watching. Always knowing.
However, Michael’s family home was anything but normal. His father abused his mother and his siblings. The abuse was part of Michael’s life ever since he could remember. He thought it was a normal family upbringing, that his father would scream and impose strict curfews backed up by threats. It made sense to Michael that a father would control the life a child right down to the clothes they must wear on a given day. His father controlled every aspect of his life, leading Michael to feel like his father was always watching.
The fear that you are constantly being watched is a scary idea, yet alone for young kids. You lose your autonomy, ability to push boundaries and know where the limits are. Young kids learn to be so terrified of the potential ramifications of an action that the fear becomes ingrained. Never pushing boundaries.
The effects of Michael’s abuse stayed with him long after the abuse was gone, causing him to fear the consequences of any action that pushed the boundaries.
Over the years, the abuse that Michael suffered increased in severity. The threat of violence and violent actions increased also. No longer content with controlling bedtimes and clothing items, his father started controlling outdoor times, game times and friend times.
The step up in control coincided with an increase in violent tendencies
One-night while his father was entertaining guests, Michael embarrassed his father in front of these important guests. When the guests left, Michael’s father screamed and hit his mother saying she was responsible because she did not raise Michael properly. His father’s rage turned towards his son, and he imposed a week-long ban on Michael. He was not able to see his friends and his father confiscated his electronics.
Michael did not understand what he had done to upset his father. Why did his father have to be so angry all the time? Why did he have to be so scary? Couldn’t he treat Michael and his mother with kindness? As a result of this unrelenting anger, Michael learnt to shy away from confrontation in all its forms.
For some who have experienced domestic and family violence, there is a crippling fear of confrontation. Confrontation is at the root of all abuse.
Abuse starts with confrontation that tips the scale to an unhealthy level.
Confrontation is not always bad, but for those that have been abused, confrontation is a representation of their past. They learn to fear it, for how it was manipulated against them. A tool to control. They worry that if they use confrontation, even in a healthy way and what seems the best course of actions, they stoop as low as their abuser. They know that confrontation can be good and can improve relationships, but they shy away from it because of their “scars.” Even actions that might lead to confrontation are taboo. If they must use confrontation, it takes a high threshold and is something that must be prepared for and something to recover from.
Understanding the personal effects of abuse is difficult. We build a perfect picture of ourselves. Some of us understand our weaknesses and our quirks. However, it is hard to understand why these idiosyncrasies are part of our personalities.
Stuck between a world that makes perfection the goal and lived experience that is so hard to shed off and overcome, children who have lived through domestic and family violence often never heal from those scars and grapple with the consequences of something unfairly placed upon them.
If we need to learn to confront people, how do we accomplish this? How can we stop the gut-wrenching dread that wells up inside when we must confront someone? This is a start of a new conversation and one that hopefully has an actionable result.
Editors Note: Michael’s story is fictitious but was created from the lived experience of one Equanimity volunteer. We are so proud that he is part of our team and for having the courage to write this story.
Intergenerational trauma is real. It hurts to have lived through abuse. Some abuse is harsher than others, but all abuse is evil. The long-term effects of domestic and family violence are cruel, twisted and permeates through all layers of an individual.
The Equanimity Project works at supporting our clients through empathy, support and response. We realise that the access to safety is important to a woman but the system often overlooks the long term ramifications that children have to carry into their future relationships. We need to take action to stop this dis-order for our future generations. If you have any questions of need someone to speak to, please do not hesitate to contact us.