Lynne's Lessons on Abuse - a Survivor speaks out
- Lynne Coleman-Marshall - A Survivor Speaks Out
- How Parents Destroy Their Children Emotionally
- Frequently Asked Questions on Child Abuse
Lynne Coleman-Marshall - A Survivor Speaks OutLynne Coleman-Marshall is a retired MFCC (Marriage, Family and Child Counselor). She received her BA from University of Redlands Accelerated Degree program in 1985 and her MS from Loma Linda University in 1988. After her internship, she became a Licensed MFC in 1991 with a private practice in Cerritos, CA.
Her personal and professional experience provides us with real insight into the ugly world of child abuse and how we all can do something to stop the abusive cycle.
She is a survivor of her father's abuse of the worse kind - physical,sexual, and emotional from the age of four to the time she was able to move out at eighteen. Her father was a violent alcoholic who could not keep a job for more than 2 years. Her mother was an emotionally unavailable woman.
The scars left by her father’s abuse has made her life difficult - married three times, drank heavily in her early years, and determined not to have children. But her father's abusive destruction of people's lives went beyond Lynne (as is the case with most child abusers). He physically and sexually abused her three younger brothers. Although Lynne was able to patch up her life through years of psychology, her three brothers were not so lucky. The first was dishonorably discharged from the service, joined the mushroom culture in Washington State, and has not been heard of for over 20 years. The second is a former heroine and alcohol addict. He had two daughters by his first marriage and one by his second. All three daughters, though not abused, have problems because of his instability. The third was a drug addict but now exhibits his disorders by overeating - he weighs over 350 pounds. Only one of the three brothers graduated from high school.
How Parents Destroy Their Children Emotionally
By Lynne Coleman-Marshall
October 15, 2004
Children's minds are wondrous things, as are their emotions and honesty.
In a perfect world, or at least in a somewhat loving environment, they are able to take in everything around them as well as work through the various social, physical, and intellectual stages of development. And, they are born with an innate sense of right and wrong that is astonishing.
I never had children, for reasons I will go into later, but my awe at children grew in my years in private practice as a psychotherapist. I worked with children from different economic levels, of different races, and at different ages. I also saw adults who had never grown up, that is to say they were still stuck in things that happened to them in their childhood.
Children are naturally joy-filled beings. They are naturally honest. They are naturally inquisitive and want to learn. They want to do well in school. They want to please their parents - that is until they learn differently. And, I cannot say that loudly enough. If children learn to lie, they learn it at home. If children are withdrawn, they are being hurt. If children fail in school, there is a why. If children don't care what their parents think, there are reasons. If children are violent to others, they are extremely angry - bottled up anger about a situation wherein they feel powerless - crazy making behavior in the home.
No, I don't have some utopian beliefs about children. Yes they can be manipulative, yes they can make you want to tear your hair out, and, yes they can be influenced by friends and relatives outside the immediate family. But, the bottom line is, up to the age of seven, children are 100% taught about life by their primary care givers. And, if they do not enter school with some nervousness, curiosity, openness and non-violent behavior, then there is definitely something wrong.
We use the word abuse to encompass the horrible things that adults do to children. It's time we started calling it like it is. Children are terrorized, tortured, and raped. It's nice and neat to be able to fit it all under the umbrella of abuse, but this also causes more questions than answers. There is no question that to terrorize is to cause psychological/emotional damage, to torture is physical damage, and to rape is sexual damage. Of course this bothers people's sensibilities to use these harsh terms, and it should be.
Another popular word that came out of the psychological community is a dysfunctional family. This is simply another way of labeling something that no one really wants to get too close to - crazy making behavior. This, in the context of a family, is behavior that innocent children cannot integrate into their perceptions of good and bad. A child’s thought process:
Mommy (who I love and who loves me) has just held my hand to a flame and burned me. Mommy is always right (because she takes care of me and without whom I would die) cannot be wrong, so I must be very bad to have her do something like this.
Torture of children is crazy behavior. Torture to try and make a child do things differently only causes craziness in their head.
These nice labels disguise the underlying truth; they allow a distance between the general population and the very horrible acts that are committed against our children. And, it allows the attacker to disavow their action. As an example of one case study of a parent I consoled about her five-year old son:
“I would never abuse my child. Yes, I have punished him by locking him in a small closet for the night to teach him not to wet the bed, but I would never abuse him.”
To terrorize a child is crazy making. Children know when behavior is crazy and they cannot assimilate it. A child’s thought process:
Mommy is good (no matter what she does) and she loves me. This craziness is my fault.
Children, about up to the age of seven, live in a black and white world. Something is either good or bad. They are unable to understand behavior around them that doesn't fit - the grey areas. The concept of children being hurt is a gray area for them. A child’s thought process:
Something is wrong (won't fit either good or bad) and since mommy and/or daddy are good, I must be bad.
An even subtler form of crazy making behavior is the area of neglect. If a child, of five or older, is testing their limits with a parent and the parent does not stand firm, the child learns that the world does not have rules. Of course, it is known that neglect means not clean, not fed, deprived of sleep, but few understand the neglect of letting the child raise themselves without structure.
And, since they cannot assimilate what is going on, it produces craziness in their head.
This craziness in their head builds up, if there is no outlet for it, and causes children to be crazy in their own way - that is called "acting out".
Lynne’s Lessons - Frequently Asked Questions on Child Abuse:
Lynne Coleman-Marshall is a retired MFCC (Marriage, Family and Child Counselor) kind enough to contribute to our Program. She specialized in helping children and adults who were abused and support our efforts on child abuse prevention.