The Family Attachment Center Newsletter

                            Volume II

      April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Child Abuse is far more rampant than any American wants to comprehend.
Most statistics show that one-third of all females will be raped and/or molested
at least once before age eighteen, and approximately twenty percent of boys
will be molested. The statistics are higher for physical abuse and neglect.
Tessa, a non-profit agency working with women and children of domestic
violence, received over 43,000 calls in 2005 alone. 35,000 of those calls
involved children. The Children's Advocacy Center, one of the agencies
responsible for detecting child abuse, conducted 800 interviews in 2005. The
impact is harder to comprehend. When a child is abused by the people he or
she is supposed to entrust his or her life with, that young child's life is changed
permanently. The child becomes an individual who believes that trust is for
fools, that love without pain is an illusion and that one needs to be on guard at
all times. Trauma rewires the brain and it opens our eyes to a world that is
dangerous, where evil exists and people hurt one another. The young child's
mind is designed by God to see the world as a safe, nurturing place where
people love and care about one another, where fantasy is possible and we're
protected from monsters, a world which is stress and anxiety free.

Child Abuse is extremely traumatizing creating a very stressful world where
even a toddler can become anxiety filled. The images of freedom, fantasy,
easy-living, playfulness, and a world of love are mostly associated with
childhood. When abuse occurs in childhood, life becomes long and love is
replaced with anger. Children learn how to survive on their own through acts
of aggression as someone to be feared or through acts of withdrawal as to not
to be noticed.

Children are sponges to their environment and too often adults downplay or do
not fully grasp this concept. Children have no other choice in their life except
to believe that they are what happens to them. When children are sexually
abused; they view themselves as sexual objects to be used by others. Their
self-esteem is destroyed! They no longer believe in the value, which God has
designed them with as well as assigned to them. Instead, this precious child of
God believes that he or she is unloved and only as valuable as to the degree of
the mistreatment received. There is a hole torn open in the heart of an abused
child. Many perpetrators understand that when that child is sexually abused,
that child dies a slow death. Yes, the child is still alive physically, thank God.
However, God tells us he came to give us life abundantly. I have found that
abundant life comes from a combination of our internal make-up and the
relationship we have with God. Parents are God's representatives to children.
No matter what our spiritual belief system is, since we come from God,
children view their parents as God. Then the golden rules apply even to a
young child: God cannot be wrong and God cannot be bad. So when a parent
hurts a child, that young child internalizes into the deepest part of his or her
soul that it is God that is doing this to me and I ( the child) must be at fault
either because I caused this person to behave this way or I was simply born
bad or maybe this is all I am worth receiving in life. As children develop with
these internal beliefs, external manifestations occur reinforcing these beliefs
such as the child is abused by another perpetrator. In all the years of studying
people I can firmly state that internal beliefs including self-esteem are stronger
indicators of one's success in life than other character traits such as intelligence
or one's physical attractiveness. We live out of our belief systems and children
have a belief system with some very basic logic. The basic logic says that
people who are good are treated nicely and children who are bad are
mistreated or people who are mistreated deserve it because they are bad

I have worked with a variety of children who have been sexually abused. I will
always remember the 12 year old girl who believed she had an adult romantic
relationship with a 35 year old man who was a roommate of her father's. She
ended up running away and prostituting herself throughout the college
campuses of Utah and Southern Colorado. Then there was the six year old girl
whose father turned her into a child prostitute as a very prosperous business.
Or the five year old girl whose grandmother used dog food and ropes to teach
this girl how dogs can perform oral sex on little girls. The young biological
brothers who used each other for oral sex. These children have been clients of
mine which have impacted my heart to work as hard as possible to make a
positive change in the lives of children.

When children are physically abused they learn the way to handle conflict is
through violence; that might makes right. The physically abused child like the
sexually abused child believes the world is not safe, I can trust no one and the
only way to protect oneself is either out of isolation or out of physical
aggression, to be tougher than the rest.

When children grow up in domestic violence, they learn that violence is a part
of love and a normal part of life. They confuse love and violence integrating
the two. We as a society should not be surprised as to the amount of date-rape
when we begin to see the roots of it stem in childhood. Children who grow up
in domestic violence become adults who re-play their childhoods in either the
victim mode or the perpetrator mode. When children see their mothers get
beat and physically hurt the child learns to separate immediately from his her
mother creating a significant attachment disorder. Normally, children look to
their mothers for protection, safety, and nurturance. When mothers are unable
to protect themselves and children witness these actions, it creates a belief
within the child that the mother cannot protect, provide safety, nor provide
nurturance to and for the child. Boys who grow up in violent home
environments are at a extremely high risk of becoming adult perpetrators. Girls
who grow up witnessing their mothers to be mistreated are placed at high risk
of marrying perpetrators. Children are sponges who soak up messages of what
it means to be married, how people get along with one another and how love is
demonstrated. I will always remember one of my very first 4 year old clients
who told me through her play that first the wife tries to kiss her husband and
then he hits her. I will also remember the failure to thrive 15 month old girl
who I had to "breathe life" into her each morning in spite that she was in a
good foster home because of the extreme neglect and violence she witnessed
her father displayed upon her and her mother. Or the nine year old girl who
would lay down on her road near her house so that her brother can run over
her with his bike as they were playing "house" with each other.

When children are neglected, they receive a message, which is far from the
truth. The message is I'm alone in this dangerous world where I don't matter, I
don't count and I'm as valuable as a piece of trash which can be discarded.

Children do not have a voice or much power to stop abuse or neglect, but
adults do. We can get involved by reporting suspicion of abuse to the Child
Abuse Hotline 444-5700 during business hours or 475-9593 during evening
hours and weekends. You may also make reports to the police department at
911 or call Victim Assistance at 520-6049. The worst thing you can do about
abuse is NOTHING. You can mentor a child. Research shows that when a
child has one adult whom she or he can have a healthy relationship with that
this makes a significant difference in the life of that child. You can become a
CASA volunteer. Other things one can do is research and writing articles,
making the community aware. Being a voice for children and speaking out to
the community creating awareness to the problem. When there is true public
awareness, people get involved, people make advances toward change.
Individuals are change agents. God has given each of us the ability to make a
positive change in another person's life. When there is like-mindedness
community changes. When people speak out against violence, there is pressure
on the perpetrators to stop and leave. When people speak out the abused can
heal. For further questions on involvement, making a donation or on healing
from child abuse please call 719-632-3204. Tax-deductible donations can be
made to The Family Attachment Center, a non-profit family counseling and
parent education center who works diligently to prevent child abuse and lower
violence in the community. The Family Attachment Center is located at 2913
Beacon Street Colorado Springs, Colorado 80907.

Written by:
John Trentalange, MA, LPC, BCETS