Was your partner abused as a child? If so, they probably have scars they still carry today. And good for you for diving in to learn more about how you can help them heal.
“Individuals who reported six or more adverse childhood experiences had an average life expectancy two decades shorter than those who reported none. Ischemic heart disease (IHD), Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), liver disease and other health-related quality of life issues are tied to child abuse.” – Childhelp.org
According to childhelp.org:
- “Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children (a referral can include multiple children).
- The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.
- A report of child abuse occurs every 10 seconds.
- As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children.”
Here are a few more statistics about child abuse in America from americanspcc.org:
- 4 million child maltreatment referral reports received.
- 3.4 million children received prevention & post-response services.
- 207,000 children received foster care services.
- 75.3% of victims suffer from neglect.
- 17.2% of victims receive physical abuse.
- 8.4% of victims receive sexual abuse.
- 6.9% of victims are psychologically maltreated.
- Highest rate of child abuse in children under one (24.2% per 1,000).
- Over one-quarter (27.%) of victims are younger than 3 years.
- Almost five children die every day from child abuse.
- 80% of child fatalities involve at least one parent.
- 74.8% of child fatalities are under the age of 3.
- 49.4% of children who die from child abuse are under one year.
- Almost 60,000 children are sexually abused.
- More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator.
- Child abuse crosses all socioeconomic and educational levels, religions, ethnic and cultural groups.”
We now know that there are marked differences in the brains of those who have suffered child abuse and those who had a healthy upbringing. Referring to the quote at the beginning of the article, we also know that child abuse can cause physical damage to the body, which shows the lasting effects of being abused as a child.
What we experience as children largely dictates our personality and behaviors as adults, and people who have been abused as children lack love, support, and stability from their parents. As a result, they’re much more likely to develop psychological disorders and have a harder time developing and maintaining healthy relationships.
If you are in a relationship with someone who received this mistreatment as a child, there are a few things you need to remember.
Here are 6 things to keep in mind if your partner has suffered from child abuse:
1. Your partner might lash out at you.
It isn’t that your partner mistrusts you. But they struggle with flashbacks from their childhood and direct those intense emotions at you. They might get angry at you for no obvious reason. Or, they might burst into tears stemming from painful memories. Prepare your mind to help them through these memories. Nevert push them to talk about the abuse if they don’t feel ready. You might need to walk away and come back at a later time when they’ve had a chance to calm down.
2. You might need to seek out counseling.
Your partner may have never gotten treatment for the psychological harm they experienced as a child, which undoubtedly left its mark on him or her. If they seem to be having frequent flashbacks or trouble functioning in their daily life, you might want to suggest therapy. Talking through painful memories and learning coping skills is often the only way to move on from such traumatic experiences. You can even go with them to offer your support, and you might want to seek couple’s therapy if you feel it necessary.
3. They might have intimacy issues.
Experiencing abuse, especially as a child, will have lasting consequences regarding interpersonal relationships. People who suffer child abuse often have trust issues, which means that you’ll have to exercise extreme patience in your relationship. It might take them a lot longer than others to open up. If they suffered from sexual abuse, they might show little desire to have sex. Remember that how they feel has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with their childhood memories. If your relationship is suffering due to the psychological damage they’ve endured, keep in mind that a therapist can help you work through these issues together.
4. Your partner might suffer from a mental disorder.
Due to the trauma they experienced, your partner may suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental illnesses. Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental illnesses worldwide. Of course, these increase significantly in adults who suffered child abuse.
5. They will likely have trouble communicating their emotions.
Children who suffer neglect or abuse often don’t learn the skills necessary to manage and work through their emotions. They also don’t learn how to interpret and respond to other people’s emotions. Those crossed wires can lead to poor emotional intelligence as an adult.
6. Your partner may be impulsive and aggressive.
Several studies found a link between child abuse and behavioral problems later in life. In a study published in Child Maltreatment, researchers chose 676 abused or neglected children and 520 non-abused children at random from birth and school records.
The 1,296 participants interviewed with researchers when they reached the average age of 29. The study found the following results:
- Adults suffering from mistreatment were 38% more likely to have an arrest record for a violent crime.
- Abused or neglected participants were 53% more likely to have been arrested as an adolescent.
- Prolonged maltreatment or neglect (per child protective service records) is “related to delinquency, drug use, and other problem behaviors” throughout adulthood.
Also, abused children show higher impulsiveness as adults due to the constant fear of physical or mental abuse growing up. This constant fight-or-flight response changes the brain, making them more prone to anxiety and poor decision-making.
No one should have to suffer from child abuse. No one deserves that kind of pain and mental anguish, especially in the most vulnerable years of life. If you’re in a relationship with someone who has been abused, just remember that you are not alone. It’s not your job to fix what happened, and you don’t have to carry the burden all by yourself. Counseling is available to help both of you through it. This help means that you can have a healthy, happy relationship, and your partner can learn to heal their deep wounds.
Just remember to be patient with your significant other, and be there for them in whatever way you can. People who suffered this mistreatment do want a healthy, stable relationship. However, they just need the tools to both give and receive love.