When the hidden-denied reasons behind your childhood of multifaceted #childsexualabuse becomes known more clearly, what’s holding you back from responding alike “the reason I’ve grown so f-ed up, is due to your f-ing parent-church-school-club you took me through”?! #nrs💣
Published on August 18, 2023
Medically reviewed by
Table of Contents
- How Do I Know If I Was Emotionally Neglected as a Child?
- What Are Some Examples of Childhood Emotional Neglect?
- How Does Emotional Neglect in Childhood Affect Us as Adults?
- How Emotional Neglect Causes Trauma
- Healing From Childhood Emotional Neglect
While everyone may perceive neglect differently, emotional neglect in childhood generally refers to when a child doesn’t experience emotional security or support from their guardian figures. Our emotions may have been completely ignored or invalidated—purposefully or unconsciously—or we might have been explicitly shamed for expressing our feelings.
Emotional neglect is considered a form of trauma, as it can have long-lasting and profound effects on a person’s emotional and psychological well-being.
— DANIEL RINALDI, MHC
This form of neglect can occur when a caregiver is not present, but when they are present they are emotionally unavailable, if the parent is ill-equipped to handle childhood emotions, or if the parent is purposefully dismissive.
“Emotional neglect is considered a form of trauma, as it can have long-lasting and profound effects on a person’s emotional and psychological well-being,” says therapist Daniel Rinaldi, MHC. He adds that chronic emotional neglect can shape our emotional landscape as adults by affecting our self-esteem and impacting our interpersonal relationships.
Ongoing childhood emotional neglect is a form of child abuse and can lead to lasting trauma. This trauma can make it hard to develop a healthy relationship with others and with ourselves. We might even engage in self-sabotaging behaviors.
Therapy can teach us how to properly identify and label our emotions so that we can deal with them in a healthy way and begin to truly heal.
How Do I Know If I Was Emotionally Neglected as a Child?
Raising children is highly nuanced and inherently difficult; there’s no doubt that our parents or caregivers made mistakes along the way. However, chronic emotional neglect is not the norm, and its ripple effects follow us well into adulthood.
“Emotional neglect can be hard to spot because it is not always visible—even to a professional,” says Aurisha Smolarski, LMFT, founder of Cooperative Coparenting. “It is also hard to spot because it tends to be based less on what a parent does and more on what they don’t do.”
Smolarski says that emotional neglect can be either intentional or unintentional, or even unconscious.
Some parents emotionally neglect their children because they’re uncomfortable with emotions in general and are unsure of how to respond to the complex feelings a child experiences.
Other parents are too overwhelmed with the stress in their own life—including struggles with addiction, work-life balance, child-rearing, and mental health issues. Smolarski also notes that parents who experienced abuse or neglect themselves may be more likely to neglect their own children.
What Are Some Examples of Childhood Emotional Neglect?
Here are some signs of childhood emotional neglect. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it provides a general idea of what emotional neglect looks like:
- Punishment for expressing negative emotions like sadness, frustration, or anger (e.g., being told to go to your room or be quiet)
- Lack of shared celebration or joy when experiencing a positive emotion like happiness or excitement (it might even present as zapping the positive emotion with a negative response)
- Being told your feelings or experiences aren’t valid or worth further examination (example phrases might include “You’re too sensitive,” “Stop acting like a baby” or “Don’t worry about it.”)
- Dismissed or ignored feelings because the parent is focused on themselves or another situation
- Withholding or not showing affection, whether it is explicitly requested or not
- Failure to intervene or find a solution in situations when a child is under emotional stress
- Not acknowledging difficult emotions like grief after losing a pet or embarrassment after being bullied (often because the parent struggles to recognize or process these emotions themselves)
How Does Emotional Neglect in Childhood Affect Us as Adults?
Those of us who were emotionally neglected as children often develop behavior patterns or coping mechanisms. Any of the following might be indicative of emotional neglect in childhood.
Emotional neglect can be either intentional or unintentional, or even unconscious.
Difficulty Expressing and Processing Emotions
Childhood emotional neglect can cause us to avoid emotions all together in adulthood. We may struggle to identify our feelings or find it difficult to process big feelings.
There might also be a general sense of “numbness,” which is ultimately a form of self-protection. Smolarski adds, “They may choose to leave a relationship or situation instead of asking for something they need because that feels safer than the risk of rejection.”
They may withdraw or isolate from social or peer groups because they feel different and because they fear being asked to talk about how they feel.
— AURISHA SMOLARSKI, LMFT
On the other side of the coin, Smolarski says that if we’ve been emotionally neglected as kids, we might end up becoming the “caretaker” or “burden holder” of our friends and family.
Essentially, addressing other people’s emotions and needs allows us to feel worthy, loved, needed, and good enough. This can backfire if we end up focusing so much on others that we fail to prioritize ourselves.
We May Have a Super Hard Time Trusting Other People
Sometimes it feels safer to put up walls so that no one else can get in and potentially hurt us. We’re simply trying to protect ourselves.
So, if we’ve experienced pain in the past we might end relationships the moment we feel threatened or avoid relationships completely.
Vulnerability and opening up to other people may feel scary too which limits the ability to connect with others. “They may withdraw or isolate from social or peer groups because they feel different and because they fear being asked to talk about how they feel,” Smolarski notes.
She adds that some might even self-sabotage their relationships to avoid feeling abandoned, rejected, or neglected. And those who find themselves in close relationships may struggle to access or voice their own emotions, which can negatively impact the relationship.
Our Self-Esteem May Take a Hit
Rinaldi says that chronic childhood neglect can often cause people to have low self-worth. If our self-esteem is low, we might write off our own emotions or even let people walk all over us.
Low self-esteem may also cause struggles with self-compassion and self-love.
We May Try to Cope in Some Not-So-Healthy Ways
In some cases, childhood emotional neglect can present with poor coping techniques as an adult. Bonnie Scott, LPC-S, founder of Mindful Kindness Counseling, says this is often because people who’ve been neglected have trouble trusting their own experience of emotions and needs.
“They may meet those needs in maladaptive ways, like becoming codependent on people who aren’t good for them or showing people-pleasing behaviors to keep people around,” Scott says. They might also rely on drugs or alcohol to get them through a difficult emotion or become addicted to shopping, porn, online usage, risky sex, or food.
How Emotional Neglect Causes Trauma
Rinaldi says that emotional neglect can impact someone’s life—even if it occurs only once or twice—though it is even more profound and complex when there’s a chronic pattern extended over a period of time.
Ongoing Neglect Is Child Abuse
Ongoing emotional neglect is considered a form of child abuse. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, it’s a traumatic experience that, if severe or continued over a long period of time, can affect a child’s development.1
“Trauma can cause changes in the brain and nervous system that in turn lead to difficulty expressing emotions, lower self-esteem, shame, or guilt,” Smolarski says. “Children suffering from the trauma of neglect can have behavioral issues at home and in school and may struggle to form and maintain relationships in childhood and as adults.”
More severe neglect can lead to substance abuse, the tendency to engage in risky behavior, and long-term mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).2
Healing From Childhood Emotional Neglect
If you experienced childhood emotional neglect, know that you’re not alone. So many of us have survived this kind of abuse.
Making the effort to heal this wound is a sign of bravery, and can be done at any age.
— AURISHA SMOLARSKI, LMFT
Fortunately, healing is possible. There’s so much room for personal growth and a pathway to improved self-worth. Trust and emotional intimacy can be learned over time with patience and a strong support system. We can have and deserve fulfilling relationships.
“Remember that there is nothing wrong or bad about you or your emotions,” Smolarski says. “We all have emotions. It’s just that you didn’t have someone to reflect them back to you, to teach you that your emotions are welcome and valid, and to help you regulate them. Making the effort to heal this wound is a sign of bravery, and can be done at any age.”
Therapy Can Help
She adds that this process often requires professional support, such as therapy. Therapy allows us to explore past experiences, process unresolved emotions, and develop healthier coping strategies and communication skills.
In therapy, we can learn how to identify and label emotions accurately, develop self-compassion and self-acceptance, and figure out how to set and maintain healthy boundaries.
“Outside of professional settings, individuals can prioritize their emotional well-being through various self-care activities, such as engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment, practicing mindfulness and meditation to cultivate self-awareness, and journaling to express and process emotions,” Smolarski adds.
By Wendy Rose Gould
Wendy Rose Gould is a lifestyle reporter with over a decad
Some People May Find It Harder Than Others to Manage Their Emotions
Updated on May 03, 2023
Medically reviewed by
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
What Is Dysregulation?
Dysregulation, or emotional dysregulation, is an inability to control or regulate one’s emotional responses, which can lead to significant mood swings, significant changes in mood, or emotional lability. It can involve many emotions, including sadness, anger, irritability, and frustration.
While dysregulation is typically thought of as a childhood problem that usually resolves itself as a child learns proper emotional regulation skills and strategies, dysregulation may continue into adulthood.
For these individuals, emotional dysregulation can lead to a lifetime of struggles, including problems with interpersonal relationships, school performance, and the inability to function effectively in a job or at work.
Press Play for Advice On Regulating Your Emotions
Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to deal with your emotions in any circumstance that may come your way. Click below to listen now.
What Triggers Dysregulation?
Why is it that some people have no trouble remaining calm, cool, and collected while others fall apart at the first instance of something going wrong in their life?
The answer is that there are likely multiple causes; however, there is one that has been consistently shown in the research literature. That cause is early psychological trauma resulting from abuse or neglect on the part of the caregiver.1 This results in something known as a reactive attachment disorder.
In addition, a parent who has emotional dysregulation will also struggle to teach their child how to regulate emotions. Since children are not naturally born with emotional regulation coping skills, having a parent who cannot model effective coping puts a child at risk for emotional dysregulation themselves.
Is Dysregulation a Mental Disorder?
While dysregulation isn’t necessarily a mental disorder (or a sign of one), we know that emotional dysregulation in childhood can be a risk factor for later mental disorders. Some disorders are also more likely to involve emotional dysregulation.
Below is a list of the disorders most commonly associated with emotional dysregulation:2
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD)
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
- Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
When emotional dysregulation appears as part of a diagnosed mental disorder, it typically involves a heightened sensitivity to emotional stimuli and a lessened ability to return to a normal emotional state within a reasonable amount of time.
What Are Signs of Dysregulation?
In general, emotional dysregulation involves having emotions that are overly intense in comparison to the situation that triggered them. This can mean not being able to calm down, avoiding difficult emotions, or focusing your attention on the negative. Most people with emotional dysregulation also behave in an impulsive manner when their emotions (fear, sadness, or anger) are out of control.
Below are some examples of what it looks like when someone is experiencing emotional dysregulation.
- Your romantic partner cancels plans and you decide they must not love you and you end up crying all night and binging on junk food.
- The bank teller says they can’t help you with a particular transaction and you’ll need to come back the next day. You have an angry outburst, yell at the teller, and throw a pen across the counter at them.
- You attend a company dinner and everyone seems to be talking and having fun while you feel like an outsider. After the event, you go home and overeat to numb your emotional pain. This is also an example of poor coping mechanisms and emotional eating.
Emotional dysregulation can also mean that you have trouble recognizing the emotions that you are experiencing when you become upset. It might mean that you feel confused by your emotions, guilty about your emotions, or are overwhelmed by your emotions to the point that you can’t make decisions or manage your behavior.
Note that the behaviors of emotional dysregulation may show up differently in children, involving temper tantrums, outbursts, crying, refusing to make eye contact or speak, etc.
Impact of Emotional Dysregulation
Being unable to manage your emotions and their effects on your behavior can have a range of negative effects on your adult life. For instance:
- You might have trouble sleeping.
- You might struggle to let experiences go or hold grudges longer than you should.
- You might get into minor arguments that you blow out of proportion to the point that you end up ruining relationships.
- You might experience negative effects on your social, work, or school functioning.
- You might develop a mental disorder later in life because of a poor ability to regulate your emotions (e.g., depression)
- You might develop a substance abuse problem or addiction such as smoking, drinking, or drugs.
- You might engage in self-harm or other disordered behavior such as restrictive eating habits or binge eating.
- You might have trouble resolving conflict.
A child with emotional dysregulation may experience the following outcomes:
- A tendency to be defiant
- Problems complying with requests from teachers or parents
- Problems making and keeping friends
- Reduced ability to focus on tasks
How Do You Fix Dysregulation?
The two main options for treating emotion dysregulation are medication and therapy, depending on the individual situation. Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
Medication may be used to treat emotion dysregulation when it is part of a larger mental disorder. For example, ADHD will be treated with stimulants, depression will be treated with antidepressants, and other issues might be treated with antipsychotics.
In terms of therapy for emotional dysregulation, the main treatment method has been what is known as dialectical behavior therapy(DBT).3 This form of therapy was originally developed by Marsha Linehan in the 1980s to treat individuals experiencing BPD.4
In general, this type of therapy involves improving mindfulness, validating your emotions, and engaging in healthy habits. It also teaches the skills needed to regulate your emotions. Through DBT, you learn to focus on the present moment, how to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and how to deal with stressful situations.
DBT argues that there are three “states of mind:”4
- Reasonable mind refers to being logical and rational.
- Emotional mind refers to your moods and sensations.
- Wise mind refers to the combination of your reasonable mind and your emotional mind.
DBT is about showing you that you can see situations as shades of grey rather than all black and white (in other words, combining your emotional mind and logic mind).
If you’ve just experienced a stressful situation or crisis and want to try a little DBT at home, pull out a journal and answer these questions.
- What was the event that caused you distress?
- What did you think about in the situation? (Write down three main thoughts.)
- How did these thoughts make you feel? (Write down any physical symptoms, things you did like crying, or feelings like being upset.)
- What was the consequence of the thoughts you had?
The goal of DBT is to balance your emotions with logic to obtain more positive outcomes from the situations that you find stressful. The goal is also to teach you to become more aware of the connections between your thoughts, feelings, and actions. In this way, it’s expected that you will be able to better manage your emotions in your daily life.
Parenting a Child with Emotion Dysregulation
If you are a parent of a child who struggles with emotion dysregulation, you might be wondering what you can do to support your child. It is true that children learn emotion regulation skills from their parents. You have the ability to teach your child how to manage emotions rather than become overwhelmed by them. Here are some ways you can support them:
Your child also needs to know that they can reach out to you for help and comfort when needed. Having a supportive and reliable parent figure in their life will help to protect them against problems with emotional dysregulation.
- Recognize your own limitations. Do you have a mental disorder or have you struggled with your own emotion regulation skills? If so, you and your child might benefit from you receiving treatment or therapy to build up your own resilience. When you are better able to manage your own distress, then you will be able to offer the most support to your child.
- Lead by example. In addition, the best way to teach your child how to manage their emotions is not to demand that they behave in a certain way or punish them for acting out. Rather, the best option is to model the desired behavior yourself that you want them to adopt.
- Adjust accordingly. It can be helpful to start to recognize triggers for your child’s behavior and have a back-up plan of effective ways to deal with acting out. For example, if your child always has a tantrum when you take them to buy shoes, try picking out a pair in their size and bringing them home for them to try on.
- Maintain consistent routines. Children who struggle with emotion dysregulation benefit from predictability and consistency.5 Your child needs to know that you will be there for them when they need you and that they can rely on you to be the calming presence. When your own emotions are out of control, then it is much more likely that your child will be unable to manage their own emotions.
- Seek accommodations or additional support. If your child is in school, it is also important that you talk to their teacher about their problems with emotion regulation. Talk about the strategies that you use at home and how your child might need extra help in the classroom or reminders on how to calm down. If your child has a diagnosed disorder, they may be on a special education plan that allows accommodations or gives them extra help. Be sure to take advantage of that.
- Reward positive behavior. If you see your child acting in ways that are positive for emotion management, comment on those positive behaviors. Find ways to reward emotion management successes so that they will become more frequent.
Whether it’s you, your child, or someone you know who struggles with emotion dysregulation, it is important to know that this is something that can improve over time. In fact, 88% of those diagnosed with BPD are not predicted to meet criteria 10 years down the road.6 This goes to show that emotion regulation strategies can be learned and are very helpful for improving your situation and living the best life possible.
Regardless of your current circumstances, you can make changes that will result in improved social, school, and work functioning. You can learn to manage the stressful situations that cause you pain and work through past hurts or mistreatment that led you to where you are today.
By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of “Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder” and “7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety.” She has a Master’s degree in psychology.
Psychological, physical, social and economic impacts of childhood sexual abuse.
Posted May 6, 2021 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams
- A quarter of girls and 1 in 13 boys will experience sexual abuse before they are 18 years old, according to CDC estimates.
- People who have experienced child sexual abuse (CSA) are more likely to experience disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.
- CSA can also have long-term impacts on physical health, with people being more likely to report pain, gastrointestinal symptoms and obesity.
- In addition, CSA is linked to negative social effects, such as sexual or relationship problems, and socioeconomic outcomes, such as lower income.
Child sexual abuse (CSA) is an adverse childhood experience (ACE) that has serious long-term consequences for those who have been victimized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys will experience sexualabuse before they are 18. Not only are there psychological consequences to CSA, but longitudinal research has also found that CSA results in negative health, psychosocial, and socioeconomic outcomes for those who have been abused.
The Psychological Consequences of CSA
Many studies have examined the long-term psychological impact of CSA. A recent research review of over four million people found that those who experienced CSA are between two and three times more likely to experience the following disorders compared to adults who were not abused:
- Borderline personality disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Eating disorders
It should be noted that many of the psychological consequences of CSA can take years to develop as the abuse is thought to alter brain structure and chemistry during its developmental period. For example, one study found that the average time between the abuse and the onset of depression was 11.5 years, while another studyfound an average of 9.2 years from the time of abuse to the onset of depression and 8 years until the onset of PTSD.
The Physical Consequences of CSA
Numerous studies have also shown that there are long-term impacts to the physical health of those who experienced CSA. Across studies, adults who experienced CSA were 1.35 to 2.12 times more likely to report health problems such as:
- Poorer overall health
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Gynecological symptoms
- Cardiopulmonary symptoms
As a result of these health problems, adults with a history of CSA use health care more frequently than those without a history of CSA, spending on average 16% more per year. Notably, however, a history of CSA is also associated with lower odds of having health insurance and receiving a general check-up (preventative care) in the past year.
The Psychosocial Impacts of CSA
Researchers have also documented many negative social consequences of CSA including:
- Relationship disruption (break-up/divorce)
- Dissatisfaction with their relationships
- Sexual unfaithfulness/promiscuity
- Increased sexual dysfunction
Sadly, there is considerable evidence to suggest that those who have experienced CSA are also likely to be revictimized. A recent study involving 12,252 survivors found that 47.5% were sexually victimized again later in life. Similarly, there is also evidence to suggest that the children of women who have been abused are also more likely to be abused themselves, suggesting that the cycle of abuse may continue into the next generation.
The Socioeconomic Consequences of CSA
From an economic perspective, it is estimated the average lifetime cost of child maltreatment (including CSA) per survivor is $830,928. Compared to adults who had not been abused, survivors of CSA were found to:
- Earn on average $8,000 less per year
- Be less likely to have a bank account, or own stock, a vehicle, or home
- Be three times more likely to be out of work due to sickness and disability
- Be 14% more likely to be unemployed in general
- Be less likely to go to, or graduate from college
- Be less likely to have a skilled job
As is clear from the research, CSA significantly negatively impacts all facets of life — not only for those who experience childhood sexual abuse themselves, but also for their loved ones and society at large. Thus, we must all do what we can to prevent sexual abuse before it happens, and provide support and services to those who have already experienced CSA.
For more information, see: Jeglic, E.L., & Calkins, C.A. (2018). Protecting Your Child from Sexual Abuse: What you Need to Know to Keep your Kids Safe. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.
Question: Why is it exactly that the scapegoat child cannot trust their golden child sibling?
Answer: The golden child is committed to misunderstanding the scapegoat child, and in believing the smear campaign against them; the one full of lies.
What I am about to write about is not inclusive of every golden child. Some golden children do not exhibit any of the traits relating to this article and have the integrity enough to see right through the narcissist, tell the narcissist that they are in the wrong, and to stand by the scapegoat’s side. It is likely that if the golden child honours their scapegoated sibling in this way, (which is highly unusual) both children will be discarded from the family for having dared challenge the narcissist.
When I write about narcissism, I write about what I have witnessed happen in families where there is a narcissistic parent. The particular situation I am about to discuss runs rampant throughout narcissistic families’, and is more common than not.
My primary belief about the golden child (who forms a nasty alliance with the narcissist against the scapegoat) is that they are completely unaware of what they are doing and that they have been completely brainwashed by the narcissist. However, that being said, the golden child still makes an executive decision to aid the narcissist in their smear campaigns of the people who expose the narcissist, challenge the narcissist, or who simply have a difference of opinion from the narcissist.
Why does the golden child choose to side with the narcissist?
The narcissist lives and breathes to influence the golden child’s perception of the scapegoat. Through daily put-downs of the scapegoat, exaggerations, and half-truths about the scapegoat, the narcissist will gradually erode the golden child’s perception of their scapegoated sibling. At times mind control sessions will occur on an hourly basis (not daily, hourly).
As the scapegoat becomes older, more defiant and defensive against the abuse, the narcissist will begin to fear exposure, and will suddenly turn the tables on the scapegoat. This is when they will tell all kinds of outrageous lies about the scapegoat, and work especially hard to turn the golden child against their sibling.
By the time the scapegoat exposes the narcissist, the narcissist (who knew this was coming all along) has already pulled one over the scapegoat; and now nobody in the family will believe the scapegoat when they begin to the claim that there is something wrong with the family system.
A close relationship between the scapegoat and the golden child?
A close relationship between the scapegoat and golden child, will in fact, inevitably be destroyed by the narcissist. This will happen because the narcissist has been moulding the golden child’s perceptions of the scapegoat since birth. Eventually, the golden child will completely forfeit the close relationship they may have with the scapegoat (if they were ever close, to begin with), and will act out the narcissist’s contempt of the scapegoat through their body language, verbal language, and utter nastiness.
Any signs of anger or emotional confusion from the scapegoat about the treatment of them during the devaluation phase will be perceived by the narcissist and the golden child as symptoms of a severe mental health issue within the scapegoat; instead of a pretty normal reaction to vile abuse.
The narcissist’s intent is to push the scapegoat over the edge, so as all eyes are off them, and on the scapegoat instead. All of this happens because the scapegoat brings to the forefront the narcissist’s shortcomings.
The golden child’s relationship with the parent:
The golden child is bought by the narcissist, given the best of everything, and doted on daily. They are also continually groomed and hoovered by the parent, told just how entitled or special they are, and are reminded by the parent just how similar they are to them. We mustn’t forget that this child represents to the narcissist all of the goodness in them.
The narcissistic parent will encourage the other siblings’ to also adore the golden child too, to do everything for the golden child, and to love this child until no end.
This child is always right, never punished for harming the other siblings’, and their misdeeds are shoved under the carpet. All of their misdeeds are projected onto the scapegoat, and the scapegoat becomes the golden child’s fall guy early on in the piece.
The scapegoat’s relationship with the parent:
The scapegoat is despised in childhood. Some theories suggest that the scapegoat is the whistleblower or the truth teller in the family. However, the narcissist will claim that this child is treated differently for obvious reasons. They have apparently always been a difficult child; while of course, the golden child wasn’t. However, if the scapegoat was as adored, and never disciplined to extreme measures, like their golden child sibling, then the scapegoat child would have nothing to be upset about now, would they?
Excuses are always made by the narcissistic parent to explain away the abuse of the scapegoated child.
- They’re cheeky
- Challenges me all the time
- They’re out of control
These claims made by the narcissist are most likely true. However, the narcissist is prone to exaggeration, and these behaviours are fairly normal in children; some more so than others. The narcissist cannot tolerate ordinary child-like behaviour because in their eyes they are entitled to have complete control over the child. In the narcissistic family, normal childlike behaviour such as squabbling between siblings, or a bit of back chatting is used against the children. The children who refuse to be seen and not heard are assessed by the narcissist as being problematic. For example; crying is pretty much prohibited in this family system, or explained away as crocodile tears and attention seeking.
The scapegoat grows up living in the golden child’s shadow. When they get upset about it, and have the audacity to have an argument with the narcissist about the issue, they are told that they are insane, have mental health problems, and are out of control. They may even be told that they are very similar to other people that the narcissist deems as crazy, such as relatives or friends.
The narcissist hopes that by denigrating this child they will be able to control the child. This tactic usually goes the other way for the narcissist. Instead, the scapegoat becomes distressed at the accusations hurled at them, and one day discloses the abuse.
Meanwhile, the golden child sits back and feels very special while this is happening to the scapegoat. The abuse of the scapegoat not only keeps this child out of the limelight, but it reinforces to the golden child what a good child they are, and what a bad child the scapegoat is.
Lets get one thing Straight: The golden child isn’t any better than the scapegoated child. They just haven’t been scapegoated; that is the difference.
Cinderella Syndrome: So, here we have a very real case of ‘Cinderella syndrome,’ which of course the golden – child revels in.
Abuse in silence:
A lot of the narcissist’s abuse towards the scapegoat is done behind closed doors, in private where other family members’ are unable to directly witness events which signify extreme abuse. Acts of subtle abuse, on the other hand, are committed in front of the entire family and are accepted by these family members as a consequence of the scapegoat’s behaviour. These family members’ have fallen prey to the brainwashing tactics of the narcissist, and now also believe, along with the narcissistic parent that the scapegoat’s normal childlike behaviour, is the behaviour of a child with something seriously wrong with them.
”It all depends on what the narcissist wants people to hear”
Abuse of the scapegoat is also initiated very subtly in front of the neighbours, friends, work colleagues, or even the coffee shop owner. Often, friends’, colleagues’, and family members’ accidentally perpetuate the abuse by telling the scapegoat that they are cheeky, should smile more, or that they have a sour persona. This reinforces to the scapegoated child that they are the problem.
Common phrases made to the narcissist’s minions:
- ‘She’s just like my mother. (A very abusive person who destroyed the life of the narcissist)
- ‘My goodness, she’s just like my sister Samantha,’ (who apparently also has emotional regulation problems).
- ‘That child of mine is so unhappy all the time. I don’t know what to do.’
These comments are said day in day out, sometimes five or six times in an hour. It is no wonder that the golden – child has a distorted perception of the scapegoat. They’re under the spell of mind control.
These continuous despicable comments eventually turn everybody against the scapegoat. So when the scapegoat acts out and claims that they are being treated unfairly, everybody, including the golden child, just thinks to themselves, ‘they’re crazy.’
A consequence of the scapegoat’s position in the family is that it enables the golden child, along with the other siblings, to blame their poor behaviour towards the scapegoat, on the scapegoat. Somehow, in some way, the scapegoat will always be blamed for the abuse hurled upon them.
The mind control that the narcissist has over the golden – child is a sure investment to the narcissist. Whenever the narcissistic parent requires the golden child’s allegiance against the scapegoat, the golden child will provide the narcissistic supply that the narcissist is asking for.
The narcissist has no empathy and no conscience; which means that they have absolutely no issue whatsoever with pushing the scapegoat over the edge emotionally. This way everybody will look to the scapegoat’s unusual behaviour, and focus on that rather than the narcissist.
Why must the scapegoat child never completely trust the golden child?
The golden child and the scapegoat child are sometimes good friends in childhood; best friends even. However, in most cases, the golden child will not accept that the scapegoat has been abused beyond belief. Deep down they too have internalised that the scapegoat is the crazy person, not the reverse.
They honestly don’t get it, and how could they? Most of the time people cannot empathise with an abused individual unless they’ve experienced something similar. Not once does the golden child ever question the impact the severe emotional abuse inflicted on the scapegoat, by the narcissist, may actually have on their sibling.
The scapegoat must never ever fully trust the golden child, under any circumstances. At the end of the day, it is most likely that when it comes down to it the golden child will always align with the narcissist.
- They have had their perception of the scapegoat distorted at a young age, and unless they have an epiphany, this perception will most likely never change.
- They have an investment in believing the lies. If they don’t, they will end up being scapegoated too.
- The narcissist has been investing financially in this child since they were born, which subconsciously makes the golden child feel very loyal to the narcissist.
- They’ve just bought themselves a soldier in their army, a conqueror, and a secondary abuser to put the scapegoat back in their place when they challenge the abuse.
- The golden child is most likely suffering from cognitive dissonance, and cannot see past the good stuff the narcissist does for them. However, the golden child has seen the narcissist treat people appallingly; and has chosen not to acknowledge it.
What the scapegoat needs to understand about their relationship with the golden child:
The relationship with this child was never real and never had a chance. Relationships can’t exist when there is mind control involved or the likes of a dangerous manipulator.
The entitlement of the golden child:
The golden child believes they are so much better than their scapegoat sibling, who just cannot behave (apparently).
The golden child can be very two-faced. With entitlement can often come nastiness. Their specialness makes it ok for them to sit and laugh at the scapegoat behind their back, smear the scapegoat’s name, and continually put the scapegoat down.
The golden child has a sense entitlement, and they believe that everybody should treat them in a special manner.
The golden child:
- has no loyalty to the scapegoat.
- will sit and listen to the slander about the scapegoat, and all of the other people the narcissist can’t stand.
- never apologises for anything, and never ever sees themselves as being at fault.
- will never stand up for the scapegoat or anyone else for that matter, because to do so would be to cross the narcissist.
The sad fact is that the golden – child doesn’t care. Its all about the survival of the fittest in this family, and if the golden child needs to turn on their sibling to keep in favour of a vile human being. Well, so be it.
It is absolutely imperative that scapegoated children, even in adulthood, never fully trust their golden child sibling; because unbeknown to the scapegoat child, the golden-child, even in early childhood, has taken on board the brainwashing tactics of the narcissist. Deep down, regardless of a friendship with the scapegoat child, or not, the golden child will always believe that the scapegoat is fundamentally floored.
This is what the evidence suggests about the scapegoat in the eyes of the golden – child:
The golden child has witnessed the scapegoat:
- become hysterical
- have emotional meltdowns
- engage in big arguments with the narcissist
Golden child as judgemental:
The golden child is very judgemental and does not understand that these reactions are very normal reactions to a disgusting amount of psychological abuse.
The development of an alliance between golden child and narcissist: A scenario
In adulthood, the scapegoat may begin to tell people about their abuse, including the enabling parent. When they do this, and the truth becomes uncovered, the narcissist will take the scapegoat out, and destroy their relationships with the other siblings.
How does the narcissist use the golden – child to take the scapegoated adult child out ? A scenario
Narcissists are very revengeful: They will plot for months, or even years to get somebody back for some supposed slight that didn’t happen as they see it (like a scapegoat pouring their heart out to a family member about being on the receiving end of severe mental abuse).
First, the narcissist will hoover the scapegoat into the family by love bombing them. The scapegoat will find it odd that the person whom they have exposed is now making them soup, buying them things, and suddenly being very kind to them.
The scapegoat will believe in their mind that they have made amends with their parent, and that the parent has forgiven them for exposing the truth. However, they will notice that the tension heightens when they enter the room and that their siblings are acting strangely around them. The scapegoat will know for months in advance that something is wrong; they just won’t be able to put their finger on it.
The final showdown may happen at a function, or while the scapegoat is visiting the parent, who appears to want them around. I have heard many stories where a scapegoat is vilified in front of everyone at a function; only to have the scapegoat’s original suspicions clarified. The tension they originally felt around the family was very real. The narcissist had been sitting around with the help of the golden – child smearing the scapegoat’s name to the entire family.
Mind control is in full force: Finally, one of the children will have enough (most likely a golden child sibling – (there can be more than one) and blast the scapegoat. When the scapegoat questions the parent in private, their supposed slight of the narcissist will most likely be mentioned to the scapegoat as a reason as to why the discard occurred. The other children will most likely never know that this was all a revenge plot by the narcissist. At this point, the golden child will show no remorse for what has happened.
Redeveloping a relationship with the golden child:
I personally believe that the golden child has already shown the scapegoat who they are, and that the scapegoat should really take this into account. The golden child cannot be trusted, and they have most likely shown this to be true on several occasions.
Possibilities for a relationship may occur after the narcissist dies. However, the scapegoat will never be able to trust the golden child again, because when it suits them, they’ll just turn against their scapegoated sibling, as a way to avoid all accountability for their own vile behaviour. The only element that will change in this scenario is who they side with.
Until the golden child’s perception of the scapegoat changes, which is unlikely, the scapegoat may need to sever all ties with the golden child and kiss the relationship goodbye.
1800 RESPECT was the featured Support Agency, on tonight’s news.
There are also other national numbers, available as listed on NRS site:
REFERENCES as retried from https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/support/get-help-apply
Professor Jill Astbury MAPS, College of Arts, Victoria University
All forms of child sexual abuse (CSA) are a profound violation of the human rights of children. CSA is a crime under Australian law and an extreme transgression of trust, duty of care and power by perpetrators. The rights violations that define CSA are critically connected to the deleterious behavioural and psychological health consequences that ensue. This article examines the long-term effects of CSA on mental health and the determinants of these outcomes, in order to identify opportunities to ameliorate the profound psychological impacts of CSA on the lives of many victims/survivors. The article is based on a literature review commissioned to inform the APS response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was established in 2013 by the Gillard Government.
Prevalence of child sexual abuse
Rates of CSA are difficult to gauge accurately given the clandestine, sensitive and criminal nature of the sexual abuse to which children are exposed. Perpetrators of CSA are often close to the victim, such as fathers, uncles, teachers, caregivers and other trusted members of the community (Finkelhor, Hammer & Sedlak, 2008). CSA often goes undisclosed and unreported to professionals or adults for many complex reasons, including fear of punishment and retaliation by the perpetrator, as well as the stigma and shame associated with this type of abuse (Priebe & Svedin, 2008).
A global meta-analysis of child sexual abuse prevalence figures found self-reported CSA ranged from 164-197 in every 1,000 girls and 66-88 per 1,000 boys (Stoltenborgh, van Ijzendoorn, Euser, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2011). In Australia, Fleming (1997) used a community sample of 710 women randomly selected from the Australian electoral roll and found that 20 per cent of the sample reported experiencing CSA involving contact. Another national survey involving both men and women (Najman, Dunne, Purdie, Boyle, & Coxeter, 2005) reported a higher prevalence of CSA, with more than one third of women and approximately one sixth of men reporting a history of CSA. A more recent study in Victoria (Moore et al., 2010) reported a prevalence rate of 17 per cent for any type of CSA for girls and seven per cent for boys when they took part in the study during adolescence. Both Australian studies involving community samples of women or girls and men or boys indicate that girls are two or more times more likely to experience CSA than boys.
Long-term mental health consequences
A significant body of research has demonstrated that the experience of CSA can exert long-lasting effects on brain development, psychological and social functioning, self-esteem, mental health, personality, sleep, health risk behaviours including substance use, self-harm and life expectancy. CSA often co-occurs with physical and emotional abuse and other negative and stressful childhood experiences that independently predict poor mental and physical health outcomes in adult life.
Nevertheless, the research literature indicates that when other predictors of poor adult mental health are statistically controlled, CSA remains a powerful determinant of psychological disorder in adult life (Kendler et al., 2000). Strong evidence from twin studies indicates that a causal relationship exists between CSA and subsequent mental disorders. Twin studies necessarily control for genetic and family environment factors and a number since 2000 have documented significant associations between CSA, depression, panic disorder, alcohol abuse/dependence, drug abuse/dependence, suicide attempts and completed suicides.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies published between 1980 and 2008 (Chen et al., 2010) found that a history of sexual abuse including child sexual abuse was related to significantly increased odds of a lifetime diagnosis of several different psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders and suicide. A particularly strong link between CSA and subsequent PTSD has been found.
Although the diagnosis of PTSD may be appropriate for those who have been exposed to relatively circumscribed CSA, Herman (1992) argued more than two decades ago that this diagnosis does not adequately capture the psychological responses of people who are repeatedly traumatised over a long period of time, experience subsequent re-victimisation in adolescence or adult life and typically display multiple symptoms of psychological distress and high levels of psychiatric co-morbidity. For survivors of this kind of CSA, Herman (1992) proposed the expanded diagnostic concept of complex PTSD on the grounds that it was better able to accurately capture the complex psychological sequelae of prolonged, repeated trauma.
Risk of suicide: Australian research
Survivors of CSA face a significantly increased risk of suicide and a higher prevalence of suicide attempts and ideation. An Australian follow-up study (Plunkett et al., 2001) of young people who had experienced CSA compared with those who had not, reported that those with a CSA history had a suicide rate 10.7-13.0 times the national rate. Furthermore, 32 per cent of those sexually abused as children had attempted suicide and 43 per cent had thought about suicide. None of the non-abused participants had completed suicide.
A more recent Australian study confirms and extends this finding. Cutajar and colleagues (2010) conducted a cohort study of 2,759 victims of CSA by linking forensic records from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine between 1964 and 1995 to coronial records up to 44 years later. They found that female sexual abuse victims had 40 times higher risk of suicide and 88 times higher risk of fatal overdose than the rates in the general population. Interestingly these rates were even higher than those for males, in contrast to the usual gender pattern for suicide. The respective rates for males were 14 times and 38 times higher than those in the general population.
Determinants of long-term mental health outcomes
While victims/survivors of CSA face greatly increased risks of poor mental health in adult life, a significant minority do not go on to develop psychological disorders (Saunders, Kilpatrick, Hanson, Resnick, & Walker, 1999). Broadly, two approaches to explaining this finding have informed research: differences in the nature of the abuse that has taken place; and post-abuse factors that positively mediate or intervene in the development of negative long-term mental health outcomes.
Nature of the sexual abuse
The likelihood of experiencing severe, negative mental health outcomes in adult life as the result of CSA is increased by several abuse-specific characteristics. Large scale epidemiological studies have consistently documented that forced penetrative sex, multiple perpetrators, abuse by a relative, and a long duration of CSA (e.g., more than a year) predict more severe psychiatric disturbance and a higher likelihood of being an in-patient in a psychiatric facility in adult life.
More than 20 years ago, Pribor and Dinwiddie (1992) investigated different types of CSA of increasing severity and found that incest victims had a significantly increased lifetime prevalence rate for seven psychological disorders including agoraphobia, alcohol abuse or dependence, depression, panic disorder, PTSD, simple phobia and social phobia. Bulik, Prescott and Kendler (2001) also confirmed that a higher risk for the development of psychiatric and substance use disorders was associated with certain characteristics of the abuse, including attempted or completed intercourse, the use of force or threats and abuse by a relative. More severe and chronic abuse which starts at an early age has also been reported to increase the risk of developing symptoms of dissociation.
Post-abuse mediating factors
Certain factors, both negative and positive, are likely to intervene after CSA has taken place and to mediate adult mental health outcomes.
- Coping strategies
Specific coping strategies used by survivors can positively or negatively predict long-term psychological outcomes. Overall, positive, constructive coping strategies such as expressing feelings and making efforts to improve the situation are associated with better adjustment (Runtz & Schallow, 1997; Tremblay, Hebert, & Piche, 1999), and negative coping strategies, including engaging in self-destructive or avoidant behaviours, with worse adjustment (Merrill, Thomsen, Sinclair, Gold, & Miller, 2001). However, the coping strategies used by survivors are contingent to some degree on the availability of social or material resources over which children have little or no control.
In addition, the number of negative or maladaptive coping strategies used is predictive of the likelihood of sexual re-victimisation in adulthood (Filipas & Ullman, 2006). This strongly indicates that the link between CSA, negative coping strategies and adverse adult psychological outcomes is strengthened by sexual re-victimisation. Several studies have confirmed this relationship.
CSA is associated with an increased risk of subsequent violent victimisation including intimate partner violence and sexual violence in adolescence and adulthood (see, for example, Classen, Palesh, & Aggarwal, 2005). Sexual re-victimisation involving rape or other types of sexual abuse/assault poses a potent risk for worse psychological health in adult life. A number of studies have confirmed that women who are sexually re-victimised compared with their non-revictimised counterparts have more severe symptoms of psychological distress in adulthood.
- Social support and reaction to disclosure
Historically, the role of social support and other societal and cultural factors in determining survivors’ responses to CSA has been under-explored in comparison with the heavy focus on the survivor’s role in responding to sexual trauma. Increased interest in the contribution of social support and other sociocultural factors has prompted increased investigation into the social contextual factors that can mediate adult outcomes following childhood violence, many of which are associated with the reactions to disclosure.
Delay in the disclosure of CSA is linked inevitably with other delays, all of which are harmful to the child. These include delay in putting in place adequate means to protect the child from further victimisation, delay in the child receiving meaningful assistance including necessary psychological and physical health care, and delay in redress and justice for the victim. Without disclosure, negative health outcomes are more likely to proliferate and compound. Conversely, disclosure within one month of sexual assault occurring is associated with a significantly lower risk of subsequent psychosocial difficulties in adult life including lower rates of PTSD and major depressive episodes (Ruggiero et al., 2004).
Yet experiences of disclosure are not uniform and whether they are positive or negative depends on the reactions of the person to whom the CSA is disclosed. Unfortunately, negative reactions to disclosure are common, constitute secondary traumatisation and are associated with poorer adult psychological outcomes (Ullman, 2007). Such reactions include not being believed, being blamed and judged, or punished and not supported, all of which can compound the impact of the original abuse and further increase the risk of psychological distress including increased symptoms of PTSD, particularly when the perpetrator is a relative.
Specific characteristics of disclosure appear to be protective against the development of psychiatric disorders. This finding highlights the importance of social support in concert with effective action by the person in whom the child confides. The degree to which someone is affected is likely to reflect various indicators of the severity of the abuse as well as countervailing protective factors such as the strength of family relationships and the survivor’s self-esteem. One such factor is a warm and supportive relationship with a non-offending parent, which is strongly associated with resilience following CSA and lower levels of abuse-related stress.
Implications for psychological training and practice
The research outlined above shows conclusively that CSA is associated with multiple adverse psychological outcomes, although such outcomes are not inevitable. The identified mediating or intervening factors that increase or decrease the risk of developing psychological disorders as a result of CSA have important implications for psychological training and for the practising psychologists who work with survivors of CSA.
Training on CSA
It is a matter of grave concern that the issue of CSA has been neglected in psychology training. When psychologists lack appropriate knowledge and skills to work with survivors they put both their clients and themselves at risk and can cause unintended harm. Training on CSA is urgently needed in psychology programs to disseminate evidence to students on the protean psychological consequences of CSA as well as the skills necessary to carry out the demanding mental and emotional work of treating survivors. Survivors can have chronic, complex problems in many areas of functioning and psychological disorders can overlap with physical health problems, including pain syndromes and high risk health behaviours such as alcohol, tobacco and drug use. Careful long-term psychological care is often necessary. As survivors may seek help from a range of psychologists, it is important that all psychologists are educated about the magnitude and psychological consequences of CSA.
Apart from acquiring more in-depth knowledge of the emotional effects of CSA and experience in trauma-related interventions, postgraduate courses should prepare practitioners for how exposure to their clients’ traumatic material can traumatise them as well. To remain psychologically healthy while working with survivors of CSA, psychologists need to be able to recognise symptoms of secondary traumatic stress and develop self-care strategies and support systems that will help them to manage the stress related to working with CSA survivors.
Most practising psychologists today who work with survivors have acquired their knowledge and skills ‘on the job’ post-graduation or as a result of their own initiative by attending workshops delivered by specialists in the field. An unknown number of registered psychologists may have no training on CSA and a more systematic continuing education program should be available and accessible so that all psychologists are equipped, at the very least, to ‘do no harm’ to the clients who have experienced CSA.
Implications for psychological practice
Knowing how to facilitate disclosure and take a comprehensive trauma history is an essential first step in developing a treatment plan for survivors of CSA. How a psychologist responds to a client’s disclosure will have an enormous impact on whether a survivor continues or abruptly terminates treatment. Any hint of disbelief, blame or judgment is likely to fracture the client’s fragile hope that she or he will be believed and that it is safe to undertake the painful task of working through the original abuse and its aftermath. If the response to a disclosure is negative it may be years before a survivor is willing to try again, and in the meantime the psychological burden of the abuse and its effects can proliferate. The effort to remain silent and keep the abuse hidden is extremely isolating and cuts off access to potential avenues of psychosocial support.
It would be a mistake for psychologists to assume, for example, that knowing about prolonged exposure therapy for the treatment of PTSD, would, by itself, be sufficient to offer effective treatment to survivors. Beyond the symptoms of traumatic stress associated with CSA, survivors often struggle with many other pressing concerns. These often relate to the deep betrayal of trust by the adult/s with a duty of care towards them as children. This betrayal can prompt persistent negative self-perceptions, difficulties in trusting others and their own judgement, and abiding feelings of shame and intrinsic ‘unloveability’ that contribute to insecure, unsatisfying relationships in adult life. These same issues can impinge on the client-psychologist interaction, making it challenging to establish a robust therapeutic alliance or maintain appropriate boundaries.
CSA does not result in a single disorder such as depression, treatable within the 10 sessions supported under the Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative. The chronicity and complexity of the disorders stemming from CSA require much longer term mental health care. The current system under Medicare is very poorly suited to meeting the mental health care needs of perhaps the most numerous and psychologically vulnerable group in society – CSA survivors.
The Royal Commission has provided a timely opportunity to closely examine the enduring, deleterious and multi-faceted impacts of CSA on survivors, how institutions in which abuse took place failed to intervene and the kind of assistance survivors believe will be most helpful in healing from their traumatic experiences. Psychology has much to contribute to this process and to ensure that the best available psychological evidence is put forward to address the profoundly disturbing phenomenon of child sexual abuse.
|Clergy-perpetrated child sexual abuseIn contrast with the large evidence base amassed since the 1980s on the prevalence and health consequences of CSA occurring in the general community, minimal research was published before 2000 on CSA perpetrated by clergy or others working for institutions or organisations, and evidence remains limited in scope.There is an additional theological and spiritual dimension to clergy-perpetrated abuse that sets it apart other forms of CSA, including a spiritual and religious crisis during and after the abuse (Farrell & Taylor, 2000). CSA perpetrated by priests and other members of the clergy has been described as “a unique betrayal” (Guido, 2008) and the “ultimate deception” (Cook, 2005), and the implications of such abuse for victims are eloquently described by McMackin, Keane and Kline (2008):The sexual exploitation of a child by one who has been privileged, even anointed, as a representative of God is a sinister assault on that person’s psychosocial and spiritual well-being. The impact of such a violent betrayal is amplified when the perpetrator is sheltered and supported by a larger religious community. (p.198)Psychological consequences of clergy-perpetrated child sexual abuseClergy-perpetrated sexual abuse of children can catastrophically alter the trajectory of victims’ psychosocial, sexual and spiritual development (Fogler et al., 2008). In the US, investigation into the Catholic Church by the John Jay Research Team repeatedly identified certain psychological effects of clergy CSA in the personal testimony of survivors and family members. These included major symptoms of PTSD with co-occurring substance abuse, affective lability, relational conflicts, and a profound alteration in individual spirituality and religious practices associated with a deep sense of betrayal by the individual perpetrator and the church more broadly (John Jay College, 2004, 2006; McMackin et al., 2008).Some of these negative psychological outcomes are shared with survivors of CSA in the general population but those related to spirituality, religious practices and a sense of betrayal by the church alter the nature of the harm caused by clergy-perpetrated CSA. While a diagnosis of PTSD may be useful as a starting point in understanding and treating survivors of clergy CSA, Farrell and Taylor (2000) contend that “there are qualitative differences in [clergy-perpetrated CSA] symptomatology, which the PTSD diagnosis cannot explain” (p. 28). Such symptoms include self-blame, guilt, psychosexual disturbances, self-destructive behaviours, substance abuse, and re-victimisation. These symptoms are argued to emanate from the theological, spiritual and existential features of clergy CSA. For these reasons, Farrell and Taylor (2000) suggest that a diagnosis of complex PTSD (Herman, 1992) offers a better fit for the symptoms reported by survivors of clergy-perpetrated CSA.Preventing clergy-perpetrated child sexual abuseThe history of denial, cover up and delays in response to disclosures of clergy CSA by churches has been well documented, with their responses to perpetrators evidencing a failure to implement any effective preventative measures. To stop institutional CSA from occurring, it is critical to understand the situational indicators of such abuse so that the opportunities they afford to perpetrators to commit the crime of CSA can be identified.Parkinson and colleagues (2009) identified that having immediate and convenient access to minors were the defining characteristics that facilitated abuse. The evidence also suggests the need for parents and their children to be made much more aware of the grooming tactics used by clergy who perpetrate CSA. The John Jay College study (2006) identified the strategies that allowed the perpetrators to become close to the child they subsequently abused including being friendly with the victims’ families, giving gifts or other enticements such as taking them to sporting events or letting them drive cars, and spending a lot of time with victims.A recurrent theme in Australian victims’ accounts is how their parents’ religious beliefs and trust and reverence for members of the clergy meant that they could not conceive of the possibility that priests could sexually abuse their children and betray their own vows. Yet there is ample evidence that this trust was sadly misplaced and the same caution that would be applied to other members of society needs to be applied to the clergy.Finally, in tandem with a message from churches that there is zero tolerance for CSA, there needs to be a clear and trustworthy process in place, independent of the churches, that encourages children to disclose CSA safely and confidentially. Educational programs in all schools beginning in primary school might be one way of achieving this.Victims of clergy-perpetrated CSA need to be heard with respect and compassion, given meaningful assistance to meet their psychosocial needs, and provided with justice through those who perpetrated the abuse and those who covered it up being held fully accountable. Only then will it be possible for recovery from the immense trauma of clergy CSA and the rebuilding of shattered lives to truly begin.|
The author can be contacted at Jill.Astbury@vu.edu.au
- Parkinson, P., Oates, K. & Jayakody, A. (2009). Study of reported child sexual abuse in the Anglican Church. Submission to the Victorian Inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations.
- Plunkett, A., O’Toole B., Swanston, H., Oates, R. K., Shrimpton, S. & Parkinson, P. (2001). Suicide risk following child sexual abuse. Ambulatory Paediatrics, 1 (5), 262-266.
- Pribor, E. F. & Dinwiddie, S. H. (1992). Psychiatric correlates of incest in childhood. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 52-56.
- Priebe, G. & Svedin, C. G. (2008). Child sexual abuse is largely hidden from the adult society: An epidemiological study of adolescents’ disclosures. Child Abuse and Neglect, 32(12), 1095-108.
- Ruggiero, K. J., Smith, D. W., Hanson, A., Resnick, H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., Best, C. L. (2004). Is disclosure of childhood rape associated with mental health outcome? Results from the National Women’s Study. Child Maltreatment, 9, 62-77.
- Runtz, M. G. & Schallow, J. R. (1997). Social support and coping strategies as mediators of adult adjustment following childhood maltreatment. Child Abuse and Neglect, 21(2), 211-226.
- Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., Hanson, R. F., Resnick, H. S., & Walker, M. E. (1999). Prevalence, case characteristics, and long-term psychological correlates of child rape among women: A national survey. Child Maltreatment, 4,187-200.
- Stoltenborgh, M., van Ijzendoorn, M.H., Euser, E. M. & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (2011). A Global Perspective on child sexual abuse: Meta-Analysis of prevalence around the world. Child Maltreatment, 16(2), 79-101.
- Tremblay, C., Hebert, M. & Piche, C. (1999). Coping strategies and social support as mediators of consequences in child sexual abuse victims. Child Abuse and Neglect, 23, 929–945.
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- Bulik, C. M., Prescott, C. A., & Kendler, K. S. (2001). Features of childhood sexual abuse and the development of psychiatric and substance use disorders. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 444-449.
- Chen, L. P., Murad, M. H., Paras, M. L., Colberson, K. M., Sattler, A. L., et al. (2010). Sexual abuse and lifetime diagnosis of psychiatric disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 85(7), 618-629.
- Classen, C. C., Palesh, O. G. & Aggarwal, R. (2005). Sexual revictimization: A review of the empirical literature. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 6(2), 102–129.
- Cook, L. J. (2005). The ultimate deception: Childhood sexual abuse in the church. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. 43(10), 18-24.
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- Farrell, D. P. & Taylor, M. (2000). Silenced by God: An examination of unique characteristics within sexual abuse by the clergy. Counselling Psychology Review, 15, 22-31.
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- Finkelhor, D., Hammer, H. & Sedlak, A. J. (2008). Sexually Assaulted Children: National Estimates and Characteristics. National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART–2) Bulletin. US: Department of Justice.
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- Guido, J. (2008). A unique betrayal: Clergy sexual abuse in the context of the Catholic religious tradition. Journal of Child Sexual abuse, 17(3-4), 255-269.
- Herman, J. L. (1992). Complex PTSD: A syndrome in survivors of prolonged and repeated trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5 (3), 377-391.
- John Jay College. (2004). The nature and scope of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons in the United States, 1950-2000. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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- Moore, E. E., Romaniuk, H., Olsson, C. A., Jayasinghe, Y., Carlin, J. B. & Patton, G. C. (2010). The prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and adolescent unwanted sexual contact among boys and girls living in Victoria, Australia. Child Abuse and Neglect, 34 (5), 379-385.
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Disclaimer: Published in InPsych on October 2013. The APS aims to ensure that information published in InPsych is current and accurate at the time of publication. Changes after publication may affect the accuracy of this information. Readers are responsible for ascertaining the currency and completeness of information they rely on, which is particularly important for government initiatives, legislation or best-practice principles which are open to amendment. The information provided in InPsych does not replace obtaining appropriate professional and/or legal advice.OCTOBER 2013 | ISSUE INDEX
NOTE following a recent reposting of our recent MindControl article, there have been some interested views from our sister-site (SDBC_RC). Below is a snapshot, with details of the 10 Habits following.
It can be hard to detect whether someone is manipulative upon first meeting them. Unfortunately, their selfish nature often goes unnoticed until you’ve become too involved in their lives to simply cut and run. Once they’ve gotten close to you, these Machiavellian schemers will do anything it takes to keep you around, all for the sake of using you in one way or another. Perhaps the worst part of being stuck in a manipulative friendship is it makes you doubt the genuineness of others, which can mean constantly second-guessing other relationships.
If you have a “friend” who exhibits the following traits, you should try to cut them out of your life as soon as possible.
1. They play innocent
Manipulators have a way of playing around with the truth to portray themselves as the victim. I once had a “friend” who would regularly make me feel bad for not spotting him five bucks to buy a pack of cigarettes—even though I detest smoking. Looking back on those days, I realize I was being used. He made me feel like a bad friend for not lending him money to support a disgusting habit, when in actuality he was the bad friend for even asking for the money in the first place.
2. They play dumb
Manipulative people will drain the energy of everyone around them by looking to their friends for help, only to go ahead and do whatever they want anyway. When their friends call them out on it, they’ll be ready with excuse after excuse. “It’s my life, I’ll do what I want,” or “Let me make my own mistakes.” That’s totally fine if that’s how they choose to live, but they shouldn’t solicit advice if they don’t want to hear the truth. It’s a waste of the other person’s time and energy, and can damage their confidence in the value of the advice they give.
3. They rationalize their behavior
Along with not taking their friends’ advice, manipulative people make their negative behavior seem like the only option. They make it seem to you that they made the right decision, even though you know better from an objective point of view. They often seek to “win” arguments, rather than coming to a consensus with the other party. The implication here is that they weren’t truly listening to what you had to say at all. They were just waiting for you to finish so they could offer a rebuttal, regardless of how sound your advice was.
4. They change the subject often
Since manipulative people only really care about themselves, they ultimately will steer conversation toward their own needs any chance they get. They’ll do this especially when they know they’re wrong about something but don’t want to admit it. So, instead of validating the other person’s opinion, they’ll just change the subject to something innocuous or otherwise unrelated to the previous topic. This helps them avoid the truth in a roundabout way that’s fairly unnoticeable to others.
5. They tell half-truths
Manipulative people tend to mold the truth to their advantage. They’ll often hide information that they know will expose them as liars, acting as if this is somehow better than telling a straight-out lie. Manipulators approach all interactions as if they’re in a court of law, where what they say can be used against them. By acting in this way, they can honestly say “I never said that.” Yes, you technically never did say that, but the way you skirted the truth wasn’t exactly right.
6. They induce guilt
Along with claiming innocence, manipulative people also make others feel guilty. There may be times in relationships where you’ll find you simply don’t have the time or energy to deal with certain situations, and the manipulative person will make you feel like you’re “not there for him.” They may even get you to put your own well-being on the back-burner so they’ll have somebody to complain to and seek advice from (advice which they may not heed, anyway).
7. They insult others
Manipulators are rude and abrasive by nature. All true friends can feel comfortable messing with each other by poking fun innocuously, but manipulative people go way overboard with the jabs and insults. They do this in social situations to inconspicuously undermine others and establish a sense of dominance. Manipulators never got over that high-school mentality, where it was “cool” to make fun of others and make them feel small by using nothing but their words.
8. They bully others
Manipulative people are bullies. This goes beyond insults and often involves alienation and the spreading of rumors. Again, this is childish behavior, but it is often exhibited by immature, manipulative adults. Actions such as ignoring certain people in a group, not letting them voice their opinions, or leaving them behind are some of the more “adult” ways to bully. Manipulators will use these methods to establish dominance. In truth, these people are incredibly self-conscious and have low self-esteem, and will hurt anyone around them in order to feel better about themselves.
9. They minimize their behavior
Manipulators make it seem like their words and deeds are “not that big a deal.” Ironically, most of the time it’s them who has made a big deal about things. That is, until they hear something they don’t like and turn the tables on the other party. They clearly don’t show any empathy for the people who have spent valuable time and energy trying to help them, and instead shift the blame onto everyone else. They know they have a problem, but they make it seem like it’s the world that’s out to get them and not the other way around.
10. They blame others
As I said, manipulators shift blame constantly. They skate through life without taking any sort of responsibility for their actions. They either flat out don’t admit they did anything wrong, or they have some explanation to make their actions sound reasonable given the circumstances. Manipulative people simply don’t live by any code of ethics, and when it catches up with them, they’ll point the finger anywhere else except for at themselves.
Inside the mind of a victim
I was abused for sixteen years by my mother.
From an outside perspective, I belonged to a middle-class family and lived a happy and fulfilled life. I excelled at school and partook in many extra-curricular activities, such as swimming, piano lessons and ballet. I was the textbook definition of a ‘good child’.
My first recollection of abuse was when I was perhaps five or six years old. My parents were arguing and when I tried to intervene, my mother lashed out and struck me across the face.
The stone of her engagement ring cut my face drawing blood. I vaguely remember being upset, however, what sticks with me is the next day. I was at school and met with questions as to what happened to my face. Instinctively I constructed a lie and told everyone that I had walked into the sharp edge of a door.
What amazes me, is that I was able to lie so quickly and convincingly at such a young age. I do not even remember my mother telling me to lie, I just know that felt as if I should.
As I grew older and my mother’s ability to control me diminished, her abuse developed.
There was one time where I truly feared for my life. I do not remember the cause for her distress, however, she became so enraged that she reached for a wooden statue of a seahorse that was in our hallway, and lifted her arm high up to strike me with it. At that moment, I saw her pupils shrink and her face was screwed up in extreme torment. I thought that if she hit me with that statue, I would probably die.
I froze in panic and said nothing. I think my passive reaction caused her to snap out of what I assume was a dissociative state. She changed her mind and she dropped the statue.
Another time, she had kicked my legs so I was sat on the floor and she was slamming my head into the wall. I kicked my legs out towards her and struck her in the chest, hoping to get her away from me. She cried out in pain and began crying, berating me for being abusive and hurting her. The problem with her was that she never thought logically and that situation then became one where I hurt her, regardless of the fact that she had just been assaulting me previously.
Many people have often questioned why myself or my father never spoke out and told anyone about the abuse that we faced. The answer is a complex one, yet it can be simplified to the fact that when you are subjected to abuse for the majority of your life, it can become normalised.
I understood what my mother did was wrong, however, I never believed that it was bad enough to speak out. The other reason is due to embarrassment. The trouble with abuse is the victim often feels ashamed, even though the shame should be entirely on the abuser.
I could not let my friends or teachers know what was happening, yet at the same time, I dreamed that they would somehow know and save me from the horrors that I faced.
When I recall the years of abuse that I faced, I think the emotional abuse affected me much greater than the physical. I did not like to be hit, however, I would’ve chosen that over the alternative, which was the punishment of humiliation.
She achieved this in various ways, such as locking me outside of the front of the house, forcing me to sit outside knowing the neighbours could see me. Another method would be to text my friends shameful and embarrassing messages from my phone, knowing that I would have to pretend it was me, as I could not explain that my mother would do such a thing.
Towards the end, as I neared adolescence, I became really upset with my situation. My mother and father had separated, due to her forcing him to leave, and her distress caused by the dissolution of marriage was taken out on me.
As her mental health spiralled, the emotional abuse and screaming became more frequent. I was nearing the age of taking exams as a sixteen-year-old girl, and I was tired of juggling my school work, with having to look after my mother who was out of control.
I would often have sleepless nights due to her making me sleep on the floor in a cold room as a punishment, or keeping me up by shouting at me for some trivial mistake that I had made. I then became desperate for my situation to change.
At this point, it was still never a viable option in my mind to tell an outsider and get help. Not because I was scared, or because I didn’t think that anyone would believe me. I just simply did not consider doing it. I then started hoping that someone else would save me from my situation. I often opened windows when my mother was in a fit of rage, hoping a neighbour or passerby would hear her and report it.
I shamefully remember hoping that she would do something really drastic- inflict so much damage to me that I would end up in the hospital or that someone would call the police to take her away. Like many others, I ask my younger self: ‘why did you not just simply tell someone?’
Then came the day that completely changed my life. I had recently been in contact with my father and had told him that I could not take the situation anymore and that he must do something. He had a wide range of evidence of her abuse, from text messages to videos. I was at school one day when I was asked to leave my classroom to speak to someone.
The police sat in a room and explained that my father had reported my mother for abuse and that she was in custody.
I was taken to a police safe house in the forest to complete a vulnerable witness video statement, as I was under the age of eighteen and the victim of traumatic crime.
I was asked to outline as much as I could of the abuse that I faced throughout the years. I listed multiple instances in a rather matter of fact way, to which the policeman was shocked. He told me how he was stunned that I could talk of such experiences so calmly and without getting upset.
He also told me how horrified he was, as a father of a young girl, that someone could face what I had. It was at this point, that I truly understood the reality of my experience, causing my resolute appearance to shatter. I broke down in tears, realising that for the first time in my life, somebody else knew what I had faced.
As an adult leading a happy and successful life, I can still see the remnants of my trauma. One of my biggest flaws is that I overthink how others perceive me. I spend hours worrying if I have said something wrong, or embarrassing, which I believe stems from punishments of humiliation, which were designed to render me as vulnerable.
MICHELLE STARR 8 MAY 2018
Performing artists who were exposed to abuse, neglect or a dysfunctional family as a child might experience their creative process more intensely, according to a new long-term study that has found a link between the two.https://bc67c5507046c5114c00f19acd7fd6d0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Psychologists at California State University, Northridge, studied 234 professional performers, looking for a reason why mental health disorders are so common in the performing arts.
“The notion that artists and performing artists suffered more pathology, including bipolar disorder, troubled us,” dance coordinator and psychologist Paula Thomson, a co-author on the new study, told Psypost.
“No one seemed willing to also include the effects of early childhood adversity and adult trauma and its influence on creativity and psychopathology.”
The study examined 83 actors, directors, and designers; 129 dancers; and 20 musicians and opera singers. These study participants filled out self-report surveys pertaining to childhood adversity, sense of shame, creative experiences, proneness to fantasies, anxiety, and level of engagement in an activity.
The study found that, compared to the original Adverse Childhood Experiences study conducted back in 1998 on 9,508 adults, performing artists as a group reported a higher level of childhood emotional abuse and neglect.
The participants were able to be categorised into three groups: those who reported a high level of childhood adversity; those who had experienced a lower or medium level; and those who had experienced little to none.null
It’s the high-level group that demonstrated the greater extremes. These performing artists had much higher anxiety, much more internalised shame, and reported more cumulative past traumatic events. They were also more prone to fantasies.
But they also seemed more connected with the creative process, the researchers said. They were more aware of it, and reported feeling more absorbed in it. They reported heightened awareness of a state of inspiration and a sense of discovery during the process.
They were also able to move more easily between the state of absorption and a more distant state for critical awareness, and were more receptive to art.
“Lastly,” the researchers wrote, “[this] group identified greater appreciation for the transformational quality of creativity, in particular, how the creative process enabled a deeper engagement with the self and world. They recognised that it operated as a powerful force in their life.”
Obviously the study has caveats, as self-reported studies can be prone to personal bias. Also, since it was limited to performing artists, comparisons couldn’t easily be made with other subsets of the population.
Nevertheless, the finding, the researchers said, may indicate that adult performers who have experienced childhood adversity are better able to recognise and value the creative process; and the ability of that group to enjoy the creative process could indicate resilience.
“We are saddened by the number of participants in our study who have suffered multiple forms of childhood adversity as well as adult assaults (both sexual and non-sexual),” Thomson told Psypost.
“So many participants in our sample have experienced poly-traumatization and yet they also embrace their passion for performance and creativity. They are embracing ways to express all that is human.”
The research has been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.