Anyone abused as a child is aware of how damaging the smallest event can be to your self esteem. Someone tells you they have a 4.0 grade average at college and you think about the classes you got low grades in and change the subject. Or perhaps a friend mentions that you had worn a white dress the last time the two of you were together and she just wants you to know that white is not your color. For the rest of the day you have a hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach. Or yet again, your husband may walk into the house at the end of the day, look around and say, “I thought you said you were going to clean the house today.” You know that you spent several hours cleaning but didn’t get around to that room. Nevertheless, you instantly feel “less than”.
The first message a child receives when they are abused, whether it be sexual, physical or mental is that they are not okay. They may not even understand why they feel that way but it follows them on a daily basis as they are growing up. They reiterate it with damaging messages they batter their brain with: “I don’t know how to spell, I’m ugly, I’m not smart enough for this job, I’ll never be able to lose this weight; I’m just fat” and so on, thereby compounding their low self esteem. Abused children grow up in families that use power and control as parental weapons. Everyone tells them what to do, what to think, how to spend their day, and how to live their life. The result is a child ruled by one thought; they are “less than”. This phrase follow them on a daily basis. It rules their life. Because of that they make unhealthy choices and live a life where joy is outside a window they peer though, wishing they were on the other side.
From the moment of birth a child has high self esteem; they are excited about life. It’s a good feeling even though as an infant of only a few days they aren’t aware of this. If they are in a home where only healthy behavior, kindness, caring, love and nurturing is showered upon them, they grow up to be a healthy behavior adult filled with kindness, caring and surrounding those they love with care and nurturing.
But the majority of the world does not get to experience this. On October 11, 2006 the United Nations (UN) released the first UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children, which addresses violence against children within the family, schools, alternative care institutions and detention facilities, places where children work, and communities. The study took years to complete, and was supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR).The results are staggering:
- Almost 53,000 children died worldwide in 2002 as a result of homicide.
- Up to 80 to 98% of children suffer physical punishment in their homes, with a third or more experiencing severe physical punishment resulting from the use of implements.
- 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence during 2002.
- Between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world have undergone some form of female genital mutilation/cutting. In sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and the Sudan, 3 million girls and women are subjected to genital mutilation/cutting every year.
- In 2004, 218 million children were involved in child labour, of whom 126 million were in hazardous work.
- Estimates from 2000 suggest that 1.8 million children were forced into prostitution and pornography, and 1.2 million were victims of trafficking.
These numbers are on the rise. According to the non-profit organization Childhelp, in 1995 approximately 3.3 children per day died because of child abuse and neglect. By 2007 that number had risen to 4.82. In 2007, approximately 5.8 million children were involved in an estimated 3.2 million child abuse reports and allegations. A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds. Almost 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse. More than 3 out of 4 are under the age of 4. About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
If you were one of those children fortunate enough to have grown up with healthy parenting, your life is probably going well. You make healthy choices, you make wise decisions, and you know how to respond to a crisis or a perceived crisis in a mature manner. For the rest, life is a grueling, miserable, painful experience. That promise at birth disappears the minute the first abuse happened. If they want to live a happy life they must repair the damage. They must start in the beginning to understand what they experienced and the damaging effects of it. Only then can they restore their self esteem from “less than” to “yes I can.” It is a tough journey, traveling across a bridge that has a happy life waiting on the other side. They need to make decisions on what they will do to change their life for the better. There is therapy, but for many it is not affordable. They can join a 12 step program or work the REPAIR program I devised. It was published in 2008 and can be found on any book distributor’s site like amazon.com under the name REPAIR Your Life: A Program for Recovery from Incest & Childhood Sexual Abuse.
I worked that program while I was in recovery and it took me from being married to my third abuser, suicidal, filled with despair and living part time in a women’s shelter to being the happiest person I know. Recently amazon.com posted a negative review on my book, REPAIR Your Life. It was the first negative review I had received. The words startled me. Earlier in the day I had received an email from a sexual assault center in Canada saying that they loved the REPAIR book, use it all the time for their clients and feel it is the best tool they have come across and it has changed their lives. If I had not “repaired” myself I would have burst into tears at the Amazon comment and spent the next several days feeling “less than”. It wouldn’t have mattered that I received a complimentary review earlier in the day. The “less than” feeling would have been a permanent anchor around my neck.
Because I had “repaired” myself I was able to look at the negative comment with an objectivity that eluded me most of my life. I responded rather than reacted. If you want to be repaired, buy my book and work that program. If you want to return to the promises made at birth, buy that book and work that program. If you are tired of feeling “less than” buy that book and work that program.