When I put my son in time out from some discretion or choice he makes, he takes it straight to the heart. I have to constantly work at teaching him that time out is not a personal attack and is not meant to personally hurt him, rather teach him that actions have consequences. I use myself as an example when explanation time comes.
"Denver, you know that hands are not for hitting. If Daddy hit someone, what do you think would happen?"
"You would go to jail."
"Am I going to jail?"
"No, little boys and girls get time out for hitting. So hands are not for...?"
"Hands are not for hitting."
"Very good, thank you." I have him apologize as well, give love and let him go play.
Hands are indeed not for hitting. Sadly that is a message some parents miss. Why do they abuse their children? Anger problems, drug or alcohol use, or even past abuse of their own, all have parts to play. If I didn't work so much at teaching Denver the reasons for consequences, his autistic mind would have him believing that he is being punished because he personally is some sort of failure. It's very black and white thinking and highly common for Asperger's children and many others on the spectrum. He would think he was being abused if allowed to think that way long enough. Imagine (I hate to) what actually hitting one of these children can do.
Child abuse destroys the one place that all children should feel safe and loved, home. It removes any safe haven and turns sanctuary into prison.
My stepmother's glare could burn through solid steel. She often ambushed me to scream at me for something I did, scaring me to death. She put her hands on me too. She shook me, dragged me down a flight of stairs, screamed in my ears and that wasn't all.
Stories about child abuse serve to turn our stomaches and they should. They don't turn her stomach though. She told me about eight years ago that it was her way of keeping control. Abusers don't seem to think straight, do they?
Abuse to an autistic is forever damaging and to many it can mean regression so far into their own minds that they never come out again. Abuse victims run high risk of being bullied or becoming bullies. If autistic, I can guarantee you they will likely be on the receiving end because they are already injured and different at the same time. Perfect targets.
So what can we do? For one, silence is the enemy. If you are concerned for any childs welfare you should immediately contact the police. There are obvious signs of abuse in bruises but abusers can hide those and you have to watch out for the other signs.
Is the child overly fearful of peers and especially adults? Do they become meek and humble when you talk to them? Perhaps they lash out in sudden bursts of rage when lightly teased or over very small things? Are they highly self critical other than autistic tendency? Do they associate things with home as alarming or any sort of emergency if they don't take some sort of action? For example, they lose a paper and panic because someone at home will be angry?
Physical and mental abuse aren't the only culprits to watch out for. Neglect is a major factor as well. Signs of neglect include dirty clothes, no change of clothing for several days, matted hair and chronic unclean appearance, low body weight and generally factors are mixed. Home conditions can give away neglect as well with cluttered and trashy yards and rooms. You won't always see this, but if you do, you should make the call.
Sometimes, people don't make that call because they are afraid the child will wind up "in the system". Well, I can tell you from experience that the system at least means someone did something. If you were being beaten, wouldn't it have been nice if someone at least tried to stop it? Not a good feeling.
Abuse stunts development in our children and spreads mental illness that they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives. They are at higher risk of being involved in drugs or crime or more abuse as adults.
While it's true that I avoided all those obstacles in surviving my abuse just as some others have, we are the lucky ones.
In part four of this blog series I will cover crime and loss, so be sure not to miss it.