The Other I

January 26, 2010

Why do abused children become abusers?

Filed under: Abuse,Just Stuff,Worries — theotheri @ 8:34 pm

Right now the news here in England is reporting a spate of extraordinarily painful revelations about child abuse, including some almost unbelievable stories of children as young as ten who have become vicious abusers themselves.

On first thought, one would think that people who had themselves been abused would be more sensitive, not less, to the pain and damage abuse inflicts.  Once in a while this happens, but more often than not, children who are abused themselves grow up to be abusers.

Why?

I think there are three reasons, two psychological and one bio-chemical.

Children who are abused by their caretakers, especially by one of their parents, often convince themselves that they deserve it.  They are abused, they believe — or at least partly believe it – because they are bad.  Awful as this conclusion is for a child, it is less terrifying than believing that it is their parent who is a bad person who does not love them.  Because then the child is absolutely alone, vulnerable and helpless in a terrifying world in which they have no protection, no place to lie down, no food, no guidance.  It is less hopeless for the child to believe that by being a better person he can do something to make things better.  They tell themselves that they are abused because their parent or caretaker loves them and are trying to teach them to be better.

An abused child also grows up to be an abuser because he or she has been taught that it is the bigger bully who gets what he or she wants.  He doesn’t learn from being abused not to abuse.  Just the opposite:  he learns that the abuser is the one people give into;  the abuser is the one who gets what he wants by sheer threat.  So he learns how to be a bigger bully than those around him or her.

And lastly, abused children often have not been given the opportunity to put themselves in another person’s place, to learn to understand what it must feel like to be in somebody else’s position.  There is some evidence that this is not only a psychological difficulty, but is actually reflected in stunted neuro-physiological development.

So I think the judge who looked at a young man convicted today of torturing a darling two-year-old toddler and said he was the epitome of evil was wrong.  I think he was almost certainly an abused child himself.

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56 Comments »

  1. From my perspective there are so many things wrong with the scientific method of delving into other peoples minds to find answers to questions that make you curious. I would like to suggest only a few athough i have many. My points will be candid and if they offend or shake please know that is not my intention.
    The sanctity of mind body and soul is the most important thing not only for the subject being investigated but for the inquistor as well. Consider telling a anyone they are not accountable for their deeds and offering excuses instead. There is the danger of interrupting the privacy one needs to examine their own concience. A space that belongs to only God. Some wounds are never closed because of it. What a waste of spiritual growth. Time could be better spent inspiring true teachings. Prayer. Contemplation, work teaching what we know, our creed and searching and freedom to avoid the occassion of sin and forgive and forget. Even if the scientist is clergy no sin is absolved without repentence.

    Comment by katheen mary f. — December 4, 2011 @ 8:10 am | Reply

    • Thank you for this comment. I certainly am not offended by it although, as you no doubt know, I do not agree. But I have come to believe that nobody is right about everything, and that it is immensely valuable to listen to points of view that are different from our own. But to share in the wisdom of others, we have to overcome our resistance to talking to those with whom we disagree. The only rule I impose on myself and on others is that we listen and speak with respect. We cannot possibly agree with everything everyone says. But we can respect it, and truly try to understand how they have arrived at the conclusions they have.

      And so I welcome your point of view wholeheartedly.

      Once again, thank you.

      Comment by Terry Sissons — December 4, 2011 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

  2. I’d love to see some actual data to support your theory. I’m writing a paper on this subject and am hard pressed to find reputable data.

    Comment by Andrea Wheaton — July 26, 2012 @ 5:35 am | Reply

    • Andrea – I’m surprised you are having trouble finding supporting data for this finding. My major field of study as an academic has been cognitive development, but the study of abusers and of abused children has repeatedly found that abuse leads to more abuse. I have asked someone else who is presently working in this field to respond to your comment, and her suggestions may be of greater help than my more general directions to you on how to research this subject.

      Best wishes for your paper. Mostly because we ourselves often learn so much from writing them. Though, of course, good grades or other notations of appreciation are quite nice too.

      The Other I

      Comment by theotheri — July 26, 2012 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

    • Andrea – It will not take the place of your researching the professional journals and websites on the subject of abuse, but you may find the following website of interest: http://www.alice-miller.com/index_en.php.
      The Other I

      Comment by theotheri — July 28, 2012 @ 10:09 am | Reply

  3. The problem with this theory is that defence attorneys like to use it to get free passes for abusers.

    Comment by SB_Australia — October 18, 2012 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

    • I agree that using this theory to get what you call free passes for abusers is itself an abuse. Because although the theory does suggest that throwing most abusers into prison with a diagnosis that they are irredeemably evil is wrong-headed, it does not suggest that nothing is wrong. Something is terribly wrong. In a great number of cases, the theory does suggest a different approach than punishment and prison to stopping the abusive behavior.

      Comment by theotheri — October 19, 2012 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

  4. I think it’s true that some abused children grow up to be abusers themselves, but it’s not true as an overall given. People can grow up understanding that what happened to them was wrong and refuse to perpetuate the abuse on their own families or on other people; it takes courage. One of the commenters above mentioned Alice Miller, a person I too would recommend as a source of evidence to show that not all abused children grow up to be abusers.

    Some abused children grow up to be strong, courageous people who take on the fight on behalf of other people who have been abused; they turn their own abuse into a source of strength on behalf of others. Let’s not paint all abused children as future abusers.

    At the same time, I agree that prison and punishment are not the best treatment for someone who grew up being abused; custodial sentencing is appropriate for crimes of violence in order to protect society, but the person who committed the crime needs specialist help to overcome their own history of child abuse. Currently, “rehabilitation” isn’t always the full answer.

    Comment by Highland — November 26, 2012 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

    • I am in full agreement with everything you say, and am glad you have amplified what I have said or corrected anything I may have written that gives a different impression from your own. I certainly do not want to suggest that all abused children become abusers themselves. I know absolutely that this is not so.

      I particularly agree that some abused children grow up to be strong, courageous people. I would emphasize the word courageous, and add “insightful.” It seems to me they often recognize the wounds, the survival strategies, the scars – and the potential – of other abused individuals and are uniquely able to help them.

      Thank you for your comment. I think it is particularly valuable.

      Comment by theotheri — November 26, 2012 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

  5. Is depression a factor at all?

    Comment by Midnight — December 1, 2012 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

    • As you might guess, the answer to your extremely pertinent and seemingly-simply question is not simple. Depression itself can be genetic, environmentally-caused, or both, and its effects are equally diverse. Depression is often highly distorting so that people will interpret things that happen very differently when they are depressed, especially if they are seriously depressed long term. They may blame themselves for everything that seems to be going wrong. But they may also develop rages at other people whom they blame instead. Freud believed that depression was anger turned on oneself, but it can also be turned just as irrationally on others. This kind of anger does deaden the depression but it obviously doesn’t get at the root cause.

      In addition, a child who is abused does not learn to value him- or herself, increasing the possibility of the debilitating effects of depression.

      So yes, depression may certainly be a factor in abusive behavior. That does not make it hopeless, but it can feel that way.

      I see the name you have given yourself, and think that perhaps you know intimately some of the things I have said. I hope in this season in which we celebrate both the darkness and the light that your midnight may also have its high noon.

      The Other I

      Comment by theotheri — December 1, 2012 @ 9:11 pm | Reply

      • Thank you!
        This will really help me out.

        My chosen name…I just really liked it, there’s not an actual story behind it.

        Comment by Midnight — December 1, 2012 @ 9:27 pm

  6. I’m very glad – on both counts!

    Midnight, of course, is a time of celebration of new beginnings. Yes, it can be a very hopeful, joyful name.

    Comment by theotheri — December 1, 2012 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

  7. I was abused as a child, as as an adult in my marriage I was battered by my husband. Yet even with all the abuse I encountered during my life – I never tortured my children or anyone else’s children. This individual who was told by a judge he was “pure evil” obviously has lost a sense of morality. Irregardless of the sufferings we encounter in our own lives – each of us has the freedome to choose how we will react. He was an adult who knew right from wrong and irregardless of his past horrors he experienced it does not justify him hurting the innocent. The judge was correct and just in his observations and statements. To torture a two year old is pure evil, no matter what that man had been through before, it is still wrong!

    Comment by Shanna — February 6, 2013 @ 1:16 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment. I did not in any way mean to suggest that all children or adults who are abused will themselves become abusers. Nor do I think abuse is trivial. It is intrinsically incredibly damaging and destructive. However, what I was trying to understand is why so many adults who are abusers were themselves abused as children. If one can gain some insight into this, then perhaps it is possible to help heal the destructive wound that the abuser him- or her-self both bears within themselves and inflicts on others.

      As for choosing to term abuse “evil,” I demur. I think that is a judgement that belongs only to God. Research is also beginning to suggest that there is real identifiable neurological damage that often (but not always) occurs to the child as the result of abuse, and that this damage makes it difficult for them to understand or identify with the feelings and needs of others. This did not happen to you, which is a great blessing. But abuse causes real lasting psychological and physical damage in some that I do not think should be called “evil.” I prefer the term damaged, or even sick.

      Again, thank you for your comment. It is important to remember that not all abused children become abusers.

      Comment by theotheri — February 6, 2013 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

  8. Whats yourname

    Comment by Flawless — April 8, 2013 @ 1:44 am | Reply

    • I am guessing that you have not included your name because in this context you don’t think it’s relevant.

      My name is not a big secret, but I don’t think it’s relevant in this context either. Do you disagree?

      Comment by theotheri — April 8, 2013 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

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  11. I find this article deeply distressing. It is sinister to make any link between a child being abused and any later potentiality that they as an adult have abused others. In doing this, you are potentially silencing vulnerable individuals who have been abused, but who are afraid to tell others for fear of how they will be viewed and for fear others will worry they will become abusers as well.

    No reputable scholar will support this insane notion. It is a notion that finds its roots in abusers, whose own explanations for the reason they abuse ie having suffered their own childhood abuse, is dubious. Of course an abuser will look to blame someone else for abusing. They are hardly going to say they had a wonderful childhood and it was a wonderful childhood that caused them to abuse others. They fabricate their own childhood abuses to excuse their despicable behaviour. As a society we need to reject this ridiculous relationship between childhood abuse and later becoming an abuser. If so many do not become abusers, then childhood abuse can not be implicated any more than any other event that may or may not have happened in a child’s life.

    There is no forensic link whatsoever in a person suffering abuse and later despicable acts of human cruelty towards others. Suggesting there is is to base a hypothesis on conjecture, supposition and generalisations – only a narcissisitic, moral absolutist would do this.

    Comment by Michael Larkin — May 18, 2013 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

    • I am sorry to have distressed you. My intent was to provide some modicum of insight and even compassion for those abusers who were themselves damaged as children through abuse. Punishment is not an effective treatment in these situations.

      However, abusing a child can cause terrible scarring, including the conclusion that what he/she experienced was not abuse, but actually the right way to raise a child. I am not sure, however, how much of the research about child abuse you are familiar with, but there are a good number of reputable scholars who agree with my position.

      Comment by theotheri — May 20, 2013 @ 6:57 am | Reply

    • Listen up, and let me tell you first hand that child molesters are EVIL, I saw it for myself, He scared my child and others by rolling his eyes back so all you could see were the whites of his eyes; almost in a trance like state. He told them their mother would be killed,and little sister killed. I know that this man was sexual abused as a child, they killed a pig in front of him to scare him into not telling… I do know they are the most manipulating people in the universe. This so called man said “I have no control over it” I fought for two years because I believe the boys &girls. I do know that boys will become abusers, maybe not all but a very high percent. You don’t want to hear that then you are scared of the truth. My son is alive today, but he died when he was eight years old. Yes the damage was done, without a doubt neurological damage was done to him. His spirit was amputated by that EVIIL man, and there is no prosthetic for that. They literally take your soul. Your spirit. Your humanness, Do not tell me you are offended by the word EVIL unless you have seen someone show themselves, when EVIL seeps out like a demon. I was frozen in fear, I could not move. He told me as he twisted my neck like he was going to break it, “Make it go away” “I just want it to go away” (meaning the court hearings) I said, “Break it Mother $%##” I will not back down ever in the face of EVIL, He is a coward,they are scared, sick, without feelings of any kind. He was abused, then he said my son would be a molester just like him, he said that is why he is. There is a place here “the Barbara Sinatra Children s center for abused children” no matter if you have money or not they will treat you. God Bless Barbara Sinatra and her work. It is right beside the Betty Ford Center. They had a group for “mothers of molested children”. When I sat in that room, I have never in my whole life felt so much pain in one small room, it was silent and you can literally feel the despair, hopelessness, and deep sorrow that cried out from each person’s soul without one of us saying a word. The room was so heavy, I could hardly lift my head. One Child Molester 25 years ago, affected 3 families, their children, and the children to come. And the pain still continues to this day…. We MUST stop the cycle. How? First boys DO NOT talk about it, the percentage is much higher then what is documented. It is so important to know the signs- Anger, aggression, chronic constipation without medical reason is one that is missed. Also the person as myself that told and told and told everyone the truth suffers more than anyone will ever know. They get blamed. “If you never said anything then all this trouble would not be happening, trouble maker, and on and on. Just try and shut me up. My life was ruined, I wish I could have one day without that monster in my head, just one day. The person that is abused is reliving the abuse over and over, somehow they think they will conquer it. They should not have children. This is one way of stopping some of the cycle. May sound drastic, but a small price to pay in comparison of generations of molesters in the making. FACT. too bad if you don’t want to hear it. Lets get real and tell it like it is. Girls go on to be with men that are abusive so they keep reliving their abuse that way and just maybe if their good enough this time, he will stop. They in turn are victims of domestic violence. What I am going to say, probably most will not agree, but I do not care. I am a victim, a witness, a survivor. The only thing that I ever saw that helped is when someone begged God; whoever God is to you and cried out for help. In this fight you are facing a demon in the other person. I believe without a doubt that the molester casts a type of evilness or demon or whatever you want to call it, into the person they are abusing. The only being that can fight Satan is God. I am not a religious person, it is just when this evil child abuser showed himself, his face began to change, it was like he was transforming in front of my eyes. I was literally frozen, I could not move, or run and I do remember saying “don’t do it, don’t do it.
      If you saw and felt what I did that day, you would know what evil feels like. ( he finally took a plea bargain for a lesser charge & did jail time, he is back in prison on burglary and drug charges) That judge was (above comment on this site) right on to call the guy who abused the 2 yr old evil. He was right!! Also Child molesters cannot be cured. There is no cure. I believe they should all get a life sentence, because the day that they get out of prison, they will do it again. I promise you they will. If you do not think so, then have them babysit your child, or grandchild, or daughter. I DIDN’T THINK SO! Drastic measures must be taken, and if you know nothing about the subject other than what you read, then you really know nothing. These people take your God given spirit and they wont give it back. Whoever is reading this and has been abused, know that you are LOVED. When life is too hard to stand, kneel. Prayer is powerful. I never thought that would come out of my mouth but I am a person who tells it like it is. Ask GOD to fight for you. Only He knows if you truly mean it. Out of 5 of my children the ones that had their spirit taken are on drugs. The others are productive, with great jobs, education and family. My girl has been in abusive relationships and will do anything for someone to love her. She was straight A student, maybe if she got all A’s then she would be good enough. Homecoming queen & she was and smart This is her belief. The abuser destroys the very essence of Self. I know this won’t be printed but I have told the truth, I sometimes wonder if it was all worth it. Maybe the guy that needed facts for his research should make this Attachment A….it might help someone because NO one talks. Sometimes I say to God, Why me? He says “Why not you?…. Someone has to do it. To see me on the street you would think I was the happiest, friendliness , well dressed, confident, beautiful woman and you would never know that I am dying inside with an ache i carry that hurts every day, I just want to be free, I am tired of wearing a mask, of being the great pretender. I just want to be free. Sorry, so sorry if I have offended anyone. TeenaMac

      Comment by Kristina — June 18, 2013 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

      • It is impossible to read your anguished comments here without appreciating – if one doesn’t already – how terribly destructive child abuse is. In some ways it is the most destructive act I can imagine because it is waged against defenceless and innocent children who will carry the effects with them all of their lives.

        My own experience is that not every child who is abused becomes an abuser, but many do. Not – and I do have direct experience of this – is it impossible for abusers to change. I doubt very much that prison is the place where this can occur however.

        I cannot see how anything that you have said might offend anyone. To speak out against child abuse takes strength and courage and unfortunately great anguish. Personally, I don’t think “evil” is a particularly helpful description or cause. But insofar as you are using the word describe the terrible damage it can cause, and indeed the broken soul of the abuser himself (or occasionally herself), I cannot disagree.

        Thank you for taking the time to share you experience and insights. Yes, we must speak out. It is too terrible to let child abuse continue without a murmur.

        Comment by theotheri — June 19, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

    • Thank you

      Comment by laura cowden — June 20, 2013 @ 4:22 pm | Reply

  12. I think your bang right on this subject, such a shame that there’s not a safe and happy home for every child out there.

    Comment by This Website — June 11, 2013 @ 10:14 am | Reply

    • Thank you for your feedback. I agree – it’s so painful to know that children are abused. But knowing and caring about them can make a difference. Again and again, abused children tell how the kindness of a single person saved them from despair. We can’t save the whole world. But we might be able to smile at a single child. And make a difference.

      Comment by theotheri — June 11, 2013 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

      • This comment is for theotheri in response to my June 18, 2013 comment above. I am new to this blogging, but I need to Thank you for your comment. I received an email saying “you might be interested in other blogs by theotheri and I read one you did in 2010 on “Why do people lose faith?’ The two blogs became connected to me somehow as you wrote that “like Jung you were a thinker and not a feeler” well, I beg to differ; when you commented “It is impossible to feel your anguish…. etc.. (above) I began to sob uncontrollably, you said Anguish ! Someone for the first time in my life said they felt the anguish in my words.. you will never know the weight that was lifted in that moment; someone actually validated my anguish! I could not stop crying….so for you to write in another post that you were a “thinker” and not a “feeler” could not be further from the truth…YOU felt my anguish. You had empathy, compassion and the insight to feel my anguish through my anger and hatred of what happened to myself and family. You even used the word courage. I hope you see the connection between the two blogs because you wrote at the end “I don’t consider myself a believer” You must Believe me when I say that your words have in some way freed me; the load that I carry became so much lighter; I believe (even if you don’t) that you are doing God’s work everyday and just maybe you do not realize how powerful your words were to someone like me who was never once told that I was in any pain at all, and then I felt like you defended me by saying ” I cannot see how anything you have said could offend anyone” I was in complete disbelief! You described the way I have felt for over 25years in one word; Anguished; definition for extreme anxiety or emotional torment. suffering, torture, pain, grief and sorrow. I have never heard of a “thinker” that could “feel” as much pain as you did as you read the words of a stranger…..for that, I am forever grateful to you.

        Comment by Kristina — June 24, 2013 @ 10:48 am

      • Kristina – I don’t know how to tell you how much your comment means. Thank you so very much. Truly it does seem to me that the cruelty of abuse, especially of a child, is one of the most terrible things human beings can possibly do to each other. To know that in some small way I have been able to stand by you is a gift you have given me.

        Thank you again. Truly Terry – TheOtherI

        On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 11:48 AM, The Other I

        Comment by Terry Sissons — June 24, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

  13. Its idiots like u that destroy people like me’ s lives! So because I was abused im a sicko? Seriously where do people like you get of categorising us all? I have never harmed anyone and never would but because of people and social workers like you with this ridiculous logic I get branded a possible bad parent and have to fight tooth and nail to be able to keep my children… did we not suffer enough being abused in the first place without morons destroying us over and over as adults! !!!!

    Comment by laura cowden — June 20, 2013 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

    • No, I have never said that because you were abused that you are a sicko! Abuse is a terrible thing, but I know that there are people who can use this experience to find a great depth and wisdom and kindness that is outstanding. I do not think you are necessarily a bad parent. On the contrary, your own childhood may, as you suggest, be a source of strength that is making you an outstandingly good parent.

      I have tried to understand and explain why some people abuse. I think abusers themselves have been damaged, and in order to help, one must understand that. But I am NOT suggesting that all abused children become abusive adults. I know for an absolute fact that they do not.

      Comment by theotheri — June 20, 2013 @ 4:45 pm | Reply

      • And how many people with a brilliant child hood become abusers a lot trust me. Perhaps before u stated all this as if fact u should look at the other side kids from rich families kids with happy up bringings etc… hell how many socual workers and foster carers them selves who have been checked over and over become abusers.
        Why do people abuse? Who knows to be honest same as why do people get cancer… because umfortunately there is good and bad in every walk of life if your going to become an abuser u will regardless of your own experiences!

        Comment by laura cowden — June 20, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

      • Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that child abuse is not limited by socio-economic status, and it is a grave mistake to think so – completely distorting and unfair to the poor, as if more money is equal to greater virtue. You and I know it is not.

        However, child abuse is potentially damaging whoever the abuser is. That is one of the reasons why it is worth trying to understand its causes and to stop it, as well as support those innocent people who have been “knocked down” by it. Yes, some people are knocked down by a drunk or by abuse, and get up and go on with their lives. But some people are knocked down and are badly hurt. And some of them are not only angry but want revenge as well. It is understandable, even if taking the law into one’s own hands ultimately will not make things better for anybody.

        Thank you for reminding all the readers of this blog that the “successful” are not necessarily strangers to bullying and abusing.

        Comment by theotheri — June 21, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

      • So by this logic…. say u were knocked down by a drunk driver ud agree that could mentally a physically scar u… would u then get drunk and go and knock someone down? I mean really its rediculas logic completely flawed and with no proof.

        Comment by laura cowden — June 20, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

  14. I was abused as a child and I am now 55 I married someone who was abusive twice and I am co dependent every time I think there is light at the end of the tunnel I end up back repeating the cycle, my children were not directly abused my me but saw first hand abuse through my relationships, sometimes I think I was put on this earth to be abused. The people that are supposed to help dont, they just threaten you by saying they will remove your children, they do not seem to understand that you cannot just walk away, be rehoused and then be left as sooner of later you will go on to have more abusive relationships thus repeating the pattern over and over again. My children have definetly been affected by this but no abused person asks for or deserves to be abused, it is a learnt behaviour, through various things and can be triggered by certain factors in their lifestyle and choices but it is definitely a combination of lots of different aspects and wholly complicated. 2 out of 3 of my children the two eldest have problems directly related to this and similarly I am the eldest of 3 children and both myself and my middle sister have been affected more the youngest one as with mine family seems less affected. I always thought there was good in most people and I still do to a point but my second husband has been so damaged by his childhood that I became so genuinely scared of him and still am to this day that after he tried to kill me, broke my nose and cheekbone, then wrapped an electricial cord around my neck I hit him with a hammer to get him off me only once but in law you can not do this I was told by the police I could not prosecute him, I did try. I now cannot tolerate abuse if I see someone who is being abused I inevitably will go and try to intervene thus putting myself in danger, I have become more agressive I will hit back now but thats a two sided coin. I now know that I am tired and enough is enough and I intend to try to get on the freedom programme for women to see if this helps, some of us walk away from abuse others dont and a very small percentage learn not be abused by anyone again. I have low self esteem and am vunerable but I am a survivor and Im going to try to do what I can do to stop this cycle so I can be happy, thank you for listening. As a society we need to offer more structured help and realise that some people can be helped there is a small percentage of people that cannot and will enexplicably go on to do dreadful acts.

    Comment by Pauline — June 22, 2013 @ 6:55 am | Reply

    • Thank you so much for sharing so honestly and fully your experience and struggle with abusive behavior. I think one of the things you point out of special importance is that learning how not to be abused, and even learning how not to abuse, is not always easy or obvious. So often we tend to think that someone who has been abused would know how not to abuse, but so often that isn’t how it works. What children see is adults defending themselves by punching, hitting, bullying (sometimes physically, sometimes verbally). But learning how to defend oneself without punching back, that is, to be truly independent, isn’t easy.

      You also suggest that there is not enough help for the abused or abusers. I agree. In my limited experience, even social workers and other professionals who are trained often do not understand the kind of support and guidance that is needed.

      Again, thank you for your insightful and personal comment. I profoundly hope that the freedom programme for women is helpful in your journey.

      Comment by theotheri — June 22, 2013 @ 4:13 pm | Reply

      • thank u for taking the time to read my insight into this and your feedback, I truly believe that no one is born evil it is a combination of luck, social factors and choices, peer pressure which influence our behaviours if we do not nurture and care for the vunerable in our society who will Just one kind word or a smile can make all the difference. I do not believe that prison is the answer much more insight and help needs to be made available.

        Comment by Pauline — June 22, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

      • Thank you again for your additional comment. I value it particularly because it is coming from someone who knows first hand what abuse is like. I too believe that sometimes just a kind word or a smile can change the world for someone.

        I also think that children who are abused often choose partners who are abusers – not because they admire abusers but because they sometimes mistake the threat of abuse for strength. I wonder sometimes if we Americans don’t also sometimes do this on the international level, mistaking our bigger bombs for true strength, and the willingness to negotiate or to respect differences as weakness.

        What do you think?

        Comment by Terry Sissons — June 23, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

      • i personally dont think people choose their abusers as they mistake the abuse for strength think rather they see similar traits of perhaps their peers, the good traits and over look the bad ones as they look for what is familiar and normal to them. Most abusers do not show the abuse at first and we tend to only see what we want to see, human nature overlooks the bad wanting to see good. Again in terms of governments think its fear that makes them think they need the biggest weapons etc, a sense of superioty and its a quite fix rather than negotiating all which takes time, in the same way as prison is seen as a quick fix yet statistics prove its ineffectual.

        Comment by Pauline — June 24, 2013 @ 11:43 am

      • I think you are right in that often potentially abusive friends and partners are capable of great charm, and that the abusive possibilities are not always obvious at first.

        Perhaps more critical to solving the problem is to recognize that there are no quick fixes – whether we are talking about governments or individuals. What I find unusual is that you, who know first hand the pain caused by abuse, are nonetheless able to see this. Part of the solution to abuse must, unfortunately, come from those who have been most hurt by it, and I wonder if you have any insight into how you have come to understand that prison is an ineffectual solution.

        Thank you for sharing your insights. I believe they are of great value to those of us who need to understand better than we so often do.

        On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 12:43 PM, The Other I

        Comment by Terry Sissons — June 24, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

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    Comment by where can i buy garcinia cambogia — July 30, 2013 @ 8:17 pm | Reply

    • No, I don’t use any of the social networks anymore. If you want to follow my blog, I’d be delighted. Just scroll down the column on the right side of the post and click on the window “sign me up.” Hope to see you.

      Comment by theotheri — July 30, 2013 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

  17. Hi, child abuse is evil and the evil people who engage in it are evil. However, your focus seems to be directed towards men. Yet, there are women who are worse-women who rape their sons and daughters-women who drown and strangle their children. If we are to look abuse properly then we must understand the cycle-often little girls are abused and then they grow up to become abusers too. If we dissect the entire homosexual and feminism movement then we will see that it is all a product of child abuse and anger. A gender identity disorder is a disruption into the development of a normal identity- a child is abused y the same sex and then becomes a self abuser and becomes homosexual. Many gays will deny this, but must have to them deny that they are being victimized by their childhood abuse-must gays are abused either pre-puberty or post.

    Comment by Lilith Elgan — August 2, 2013 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

    • Yes, certainly women – mothers, teachers, sisters, friends, waives – also engage in abuse and it is often as destructive as abuse by men. Here in England, the news has been covering at this very moment the life sentences given to a mother and her partner who murdered her 4-year-old son after months of anguishing torture.

      Your assertion that gender identity disorder and homosexuality are the result of abuse is subject to less certainty. My review of the research into this area does not provide anything like the substantive evidence that would be required to prove your hypotheses. Have you yourself studied the research, or are you conclusions based on religious convictions?

      Thank you for adding your opinion to this immensely important issue. I suspect that it is one which is not unrelated to our cultural attitudes toward violence, gun control, and even war.

      Comment by theotheri — August 2, 2013 @ 7:59 pm | Reply

  18. Hi,
    I am a female who was both physically (not sexually) and mentally abused as a child. I spent my childhood scared for my mum and afraid of my dad. I’ve seen things no child should ever have to see.
    As an adult I feel an overwhelming urge to be a ‘rescuer’ of anyone who I see is in trouble and can’t/won’t help themselves – Men, women and especially children.
    However, in my 2 long term relationships I became the abuser. I would scream with uncontrollable rage, smash things, punch and kick them, throw things at them etc. I was extremely violent. In the end I realised I was pushing and pushing them until they hit back. And hit back they surely did!
    So… the cycle of abuse continued.
    It took a long time for me to realize I needed professionally help. I had regular appointments with a mental health doctor and weekly sessions with a therapist which are still ongoing.
    I’d like to think I have ‘fixed’ myself and am now a better person. I have not had a new relationship since I started my session but I am hopeful that I can have a violent-free, loving relationship in the future.
    I am now working in community service and helping others and it feels great.
    My insight on your 3 possible reasons for ‘some abusers becoming abusers’
    1. I never thought as a child I or my mum deserved it, quite the opposite – I hated my dad and thought he was a horrible person. I was a good kid who behaved well.
    2. Totally agree. With everything in this statement.
    3. I am very empathetic to others, I often had to save my mum and would always wonder what it was like for her and what she must be going through.
    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic and even more enjoyed reading your replies to people posts.
    It’s a complicated world inside peoples heads….

    Comment by understanding myself — May 2, 2014 @ 2:13 am | Reply

    • Thank you for sharing your very personal story, and what seem to me to be valuable insights for anyone who has suffered abuse. I particularly appreciate you feedback on why some abusers become abusers themselves. It is amazing, isn’t it, to discover that one has learned oneself the very behaviors that caused you so much pain and distress. But, as you suggest, those who “can’t or won’t” help themselves have rarely learned how to defend themselves in any other way than by abusing and bullying.

      I think it takes courage to be as honest with oneself as you seem to have been and I deeply hope that it leads you to a enriching and loving relationship. But even now, it sounds as if you have found a way toward overcoming the limitations of your childhood.

      Again, thank you for sharing.

      Comment by theotheri — May 3, 2014 @ 3:09 pm | Reply

    • Oh my goodness! Why do we, as humans, assume that the first thing that pops into our stupid heads is just as valid as the cumulative knowledge of experts in a specified field of study? I’m talking about some of the people commenting here. It’s fun to read something and attempt to pick out its fallacies of logic, but it’s so hard for people to be just as relentlessly analytical about their own logical lapses. I don’t advocate that we blindly accept the dogma of a particular field, but before we decide to stand in defiant opposition, we should probably take a moment to investigate where the holes in our own arguments may lie. A) No one’s going to let child molesters off, just because we’re making an attempt to get to the root of the issue. That’s right wing rhetoric. “We can’t try to more fully understand the motivations of the sick so that we can figure out some preventative measures, because it’s a ‘slippery slope’ which will result in us setting all molesters free, and giving them state-sponsored jobs as cotton candy vendors, and school counselors.” It’s a fact that the abused become abusers.
      Needing the privacy to examine one’s own actions, and having that very space only belonging to God, are statements at odds with one another. If the person needs that space to come to their own revelations, then what is God doing there? And, if the ‘space’ wherein we make moral decisions about our actions, belongs only to God, then why in the world didn’t he/she tell us we shouldn’t be abusing in the first place?
      The only issue I have with the original post, is that the perp was not the epitome of evil. Unless you believe that there is no such thing as evil. I do believe that, even though ‘evil’ is simply a word that someone came up with to describe something bad. I suppose it has to mean something…I feel that everything we do is directly related to the personal history of the actor, their genetic makeup, and the resulting interaction of those two elements as they enter into a specific circumstance. With no exceptions, I believe those three components dictate our action or inaction. In this sense, I don’t believe in good, nor evil… nor free will.

      Comment by fatalshores666 — July 3, 2014 @ 9:21 am | Reply

      • I could not agree more wholeheartedly with almost everything you have said. When occasionally one of my university students would say that he/she didn’t need to learn some theory or other because they disagreed with it already, my stance was always that you don’t have to agree with a theory to pass my course. But you do have to understand it.

        As for the use of the word “evil”: I would not use it to describe anyone’s behavior. Not because many things we do are not horribly destructive – like child abuse. But the term “evil” has connotations of responsibility and the need for punishment that are religiously based, and for the reasons you give, using it gets in the way of identifying what genetic, social, and environmental factors tend to lead to abuse. Those are the things we need to focus on.

        Thank you for your comment. I hope you will stop by again and share your thoughts.

        Comment by theotheri — July 3, 2014 @ 8:14 pm

  19. I am a nurse in the prison system and I can honestly say that %95 of my offenders have been abused in childhood. Some offenders are in for things other that assault of course but this shows that abuse definitely disrupts “normal” human thinking and hinders coping mechanisms. When people say they can’t blame their past, I agree, however we (society) needs to teach HEALTHY coping mechanisms to surpass this cycle.

    Comment by corn — May 21, 2014 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

    • I have been thinking about your observation ever since I read it 12 hours ago. I don’t know what prison system you work in, but in so many cultures today, people believe that it is the power of the military, their bombs and drones and guns and missiles, that keep them safe. I am not against a well-armed military, but I do fear that in many ways it leads to a bullying attitude not only in international affairs but in our personal relationships.. When a society condemns a criminal for acts which are sometimes are horrendous, it is hard to look into our own hearts and ask if in some way his attitudes are outgrows of our own assumptions. As you say, we as a society need to teach healthy coping mechanisms.

      Thank you for writing. If you have further thoughts down the line on this issue, I hope you will share them. Again, thank you.

      Comment by theotheri — May 22, 2014 @ 8:22 pm | Reply

  20. Many children of abuse often find them self at a cross road when young, they have to make a decisions as to whom to become. My wife and family was abused by the father. She told me some time ago that she said when she was young, she would never be like her mother, take the abuse. In doing so, she becomes the other one. She has now become like her father in order to protect herself from perceived attack.Always defensive nothing ever her fault. This has taken many years to develop. Most of her family is abusive, so yes, it surely goes in circles.
    As for a cure, not much hope.
    As for people who ask God for help, please spare me. Most abuse happens under God’s watchful eye, in Christian homes. One one hand he allow it to happen, and then on the other, some one ask him to help them get over it. How can he serve to at the same time.
    Looking forward for your comment.

    Comment by michael — June 1, 2014 @ 11:07 am | Reply

    • Thank you for sharing your very personal story. I am sure you do not need me to confirm that abuse is not only destructive in myriad ways, but it is extraordinarily difficult and painful to live with a person crippled by abuse.

      I am not sure that I would say that there is not much hope for a cure. It is impossible to know the numbers. But I personally know people who have been able to learn from the experience of abuse to care for others in deeply insightful and sensitive ways. But it is by no means simple or quick. It takes a relationship with someone who can somehow help the abused person reduce the barriers of fear and replace them with self-confidence and honesty that does not depend on raw psychological or physical threat. The source of this support might be a therapist, though by no means do all therapists know how to help the abused person. Sometimes it is a spouse, a friend, an aunt or uncle, even a neighbour. But sometimes, however much one may love the damaged person, one is simply stymied. That is extraordinarily difficult.

      Personally, I am like you and do not see that asking God’s help is an effective strategy. You point to what I see as an essential contradiction in the Christian concept of God — someone who is presented as all-loving and all-powerful, and yet who permits the suffering of innocent people, and who also, should one be unfortunate enough to die in a “state of sin” will never be forgiven but instead condemned to hell fire for eternity. I think the contradiction is unresolvable, and I have no patience with such a God whom I personally believe does not exist.

      I know no more about your personal situation than what you have said in your comment, and I do not presume to offer you advice. But I do hope that somehow you and your wife might find that glimmer of light that leads some out of the tunnel of darkness that is abuse.

      Comment by theotheri — June 1, 2014 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  21. […] most frequently read post on this blog by far is the post  Why do abused children become abusers?    Why, I asked, are a disproportionate number of abusers people who have themselves been abused? […]

    Pingback by A heroic lesson still unlearned | The Other I — July 5, 2014 @ 4:33 pm | Reply


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