What Children Learn From Abuse


I have a number of female patients in my practice now who are in abusive relationships. In some instances, there has been physical abuse. In other cases, there is emotional abuse. And in some relationships, both forms of abuse are present or have been present. Alcohol and drug abuse are often part of the problem in these sorts of dysfunctional relationships.

Females who remain in relationships of this kind pay a huge psychological, physical and emotional price. There are certain patterns that are quite common with women who allow themselves to be treated unkindly for an extended period of time.

They frequently gain weight, lose their self-esteem, isolate themselves and sometimes utilize drugs and alcohol to ease their pain, depression, sadness, frustration, and anger. Many are unaware of the level of terror and control to which they have been exposed to.

Children seeing their mothers suffering in this way pay a huge emotional price too. They witness violence and abuse and they have one parent who is a bully and another who is a selfless victim. Both of these role models are very damaging and they frequently contribute to the development of adults who have the same disorders that their parents modeled for them.

They are living like prisoners and they frequently remain in these relationships because they never knew how to take care of themselves or because they have forgotten that they deserve and need a happy and safe existence.

Helping women like this is not easy. They need to be built up, encouraged and they need to learn and experience what it is like to take care of themselves and stand up for themselves. This is very hard for a person who has been beaten down for years.

In addition to individual counseling, support groups with other women can be very helpful and quite useful. Sometimes they need help from a therapist, a lawyer, an accountant, a shelter, extended family members and the police to finally rescue themselves. In fact, in many instances, this multidimensional kind of support is what it takes to empower these victimized women. Individual counseling by itself is just not enough to facilitate change. When a woman/victim has a support system behind her, she can really start to believe that she can change her life for the better.

And fortunately, many women do wake up and take charge of their lives.

If you know a woman who is living in an abusive relationship, consider getting them the emotional, legal and financial help and protection they need. With this multifaceted kind of help and support, many females can and do change.

Some change gradually and others seem to wake up one day and say to themselves they are not taking the abuse any longer. “Dr. Granat, I just decided I was not going to allow myself to be harmed anymore. I called the police and did what I needed to do to protect myself and my kids.”

Women who are empowered get restraining orders, move out and do what they have to do to protect themselves and their children.

It is gratifying to see someone who has been a victim and a prisoner regain their safety and control over their lives and their well-being. This kind of person can give themselves and their children a brand new lease on life and a healthier kind of existence.

Jay P. Granat, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, hypnotherapist, author, lecturer, and founder of stayinthezone.com. He writes a regular column called, “In The Zone,” for divorce360 and he is the author of the book “Get into The Zone in One Minute.”