Living with abusive parents: Victims share experiences

By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: Normally, when living under their parents’ wings, children find comfort, reassurance and a safe haven to be themselves. However, the unfortunate fact of children who tremble in fear while living with abusive parents cannot be overlooked. The devastating truth is that parental abuse thrives in a society that preaches unquestioning obedience towards parents, leaving the victims’ voice muffled, and their home becomes their prison.

These children’s innocence is shattered by the very hands that were meant to nurture and protect them. Their spirits are crushed beneath the weight of living with abusive parents, leaving scars of physical and emotional wounds that stem from the continuing echoes of harsh words and belittlement, subconsciously reminding them that they are unworthy of love and support. To look further into the issue of parental abuse, Kuwait Times interviewed multiple specialists from different fields to gather various perspectives and get a clear vision on the outcomes of this issue at different levels.

Victim’s voice

A victim, who chose not to reveal her name, shared with Kuwait Times a glimpse of her experience with an abusive parent. “My parents were both physically and emotionally abusive, especially my mother, who used to hit and bite my siblings and I since we were young. I remember being slapped on my cheeks with both hands for trying to itch my body when I had chickenpox. I was about 5 years old at that time. She also used to yell at me and hit me using a belt or a broomstick in front of my friends. Sometimes even when we were outside our home, she would not mind slapping me in the shopping mall amid the crowd – as she did many times,” she said.

“Since I was a little girl and until this very day, she still compares me to my friends and people around us. She uses examples of girls around us as evidence of my failure and incompetence. I am over 30 years old today, but she has never complimented me or encouraged any step I take. I have never felt like having a mother-and-daughter relationship with my mother. All these years, I was torn between obeying her based on religion’s teachings or seeking help from someone. Now that I have gained some independence since I secured a job, I try to avoid staying at home as much as possible. I also blame my father for remaining passive most of the time,” she added. According to the victim, these are just few examples of her suffering with her abusive parent.

Dr Mona Al-Enezi

Specialists’ perspective

Kuwait Times interviewed instructor of international coaches in self-development and specialist in IQ, creativity and personality patterns Dr Sammar Al-Qattan, sociologist Dr Mona Al-Enezi, social relations consultant Khadija Badr Karam and psychologist and therapist Jumanah Mohammad to define the meaning of parental abuse and its consequences and provide possible solutions that may help the victims heal from this experience.

Jumanah Mohammad

Dr Qattan told Kuwait Times that parental abuse is considered one of the most severe forms of violence practiced against children, especially due to the lasting wounds it leaves on the victim, which are difficult to heal. However, the victim can recover from the wounds caused by abusive parents by making the decision to love themselves, show compassion towards themselves and treat themselves with the respect they deserve, trying to alleviate the pain they have experienced in their family life.

Victims should not accept to live as a victim throughout their life, but rather view it as a tough period they have gone through and strive to overcome it with all the willpower and strength they have, even if it requires a lot of patience and resilience.

Dr Enezi further elaborated about physical and emotional abuse, as she said we cannot say the results of physical abuse have less impact than emotional abuse. Both have the same effect on the victim’s psychological well-being and their feelings towards their abusive parent(s). Emotional neglect causes an emotional void in a person. When a child’s emotional needs are not met, whether by their mother or father, this falls under emotional abuse and can lead to various personality disorders.

Violence and bullying towards children can cause a lack of trust or a tendency to bully others. Verbal abuse, using insults, humiliation, or comparing someone to others, all lead to a lack of confidence and can result in social anxiety. Not reinforcing children’s confidence with encouraging words and not expressing parental love can make them feel unwanted or unimportant.

Mohammad said Abuse may create an introverted person who tends to isolate themselves, killing their social spirit. It may lead to stiffness and indifference towards others, causing someone to become insipid with those around them. It may also create an environment conducive to nurturing violence, aggression and rebellion within, harming even the people closest to them. Such verbal or physical abuses may be stored and manifested on their children years later, she added.

Dr Samar Al-Qattan

Healing mechanism and rebuilding a healthy life

As for the mechanisms of adaptation and strategies that can be used to heal from abuse, Dr Qattan said that these can lie in the concept of overcoming pain and raising self-worth. Every time a victim remembers the pain from their harsh childhood, they should replace it with a step towards overcoming it with determination and tenacity, aiming to defeat every disappointment they have faced in their life and to elevate their own worthiness, as if they are saying, “I am a human being who deserves to live with dignity, pride, and happiness without being harmed by anyone. It is not anyone’s right to harm me because hurting others is a reprehensible trait that should be avoided.”

Additionally, Dr Enezi said that by self-reflection and seeking guidance from professionals to address the psychological effects caused by this abuse, one can start their healing journey. Correcting their thoughts and beliefs about the experience that caused significant psychological effects can prevent many failures in their lives, which can affect their relationships with partners, children or social interactions in general.

Khadija Badr Karam

Karam meanwhile touched upon the importance of one’s determination to move forward, as she said that many individuals go through unfortunate events in their lives, especially in the period before the age of 21, when a person is vulnerable and under the guardianship of their parents or family members. However, the mental images that shape this person’s decision-making process are formed after reaching an age where they gain independence and become responsible for themselves. A victim is capable of healing from pain when they make that decision.

Mohammad called for enhancing one’s self-confidence and self-esteem to deal with abuses and frustrations in general, whether from close people or strangers, and to recover from them. Other tactics include strengthening one’s personality to take deterrent reactions and express complete rejection of such abuses, along with writing or verbal venting as a way of emotional discharge and getting away from repression.

Dr Qattan confirmed the possibility of rebuilding a healthy and meaningful life by saying that despite the damage caused by their abusive parents, victims can overcome this experience by rejecting all forms of violence and utilizing these negative emotions by redirecting them towards actions that serve this group (victims of parental abuse) and shed light on it, such as supporting campaigns against violence, especially domestic violence from parents who are supposed to be a refuge of safety and security for the child.

Also, Dr Enezi stressed on the necessity of taking on the healing journey, as she explained that the person who has experienced violence will carry this experience with them, whether it is verbal or physical, and it will affect their interactions with others. Therefore, healing cannot occur without confronting oneself and the abusive parents. If this confrontation takes place, the person can recover from the effects of their abuse.

After healing and finding peace within themselves, they can move forward socially and psychologically in their lives. In this regard, Karam said the scars may not disappear, but with sessions focusing on developing life skills, a victim can mitigate the feelings of pain and move faster towards a better life.

Forgiving abusive parents

Dr Qattan said reaching the stage of forgiveness towards parents is relative and very difficult to achieve. However, if a person is unable to forgive their parents, they should move on without letting it consume them. If hurt, the victim should try to forget the negative situations and memories whenever they come up in their mind. They will not be able to forget, but they should try to forget for their own sake and for the sake of their mental health.

Karam pointed out that it is important to note that our Islamic faith urges us to show kindness to our parents. Thus, a victim should forgive their parents, which will help minimize the pain, in order to heal from it. However, there are cases where we must avoid such contact in order to protect ourselves, such as instances of substance abuse and sexual assault. Meanwhile, Mohammad said forgiveness plays a role in clearing accumulated effects, such as resentment. Forgiveness also plays a role in reconciling with oneself and then healing.

Islamic perspective

According to Islamic teachings, it is believed parents play a significant role in one’s life. Islam highly emphasizes on parents’ obedience and treating them with full respect and utmost care throughout one’s entire life. Parents are considered one of the means for success in this world and the afterlife. This is one of the main reasons that keep parental abuse victims torn between enduring their suffering or defending themselves against their abusive parents.

Kuwait Times asked Islamic teacher Sada Abdullah for the religious view in this regard.  “Children who suffer harm from their parents should distance themselves as much as possible from this harm, but they should not sever ties of kinship completely. This means that they should distance themselves from harm, yet they are still required to contact their parents, inquire about them, greet them, check on them and console them,” she explained.

Bedour Al-Rasheed

Kuwait’s legal responsibility towards abusive parents

To take a closer look at the law’s protection in this regard, Kuwait Times interviewed international lawyer Bedour Al-Rasheed, who said the role of the state in child protection is to provide a suitable environment for the child’s healthy growth by providing appropriate curricula for their mental, psychological and social development. There is a law for children that provides sufficient protection for the child. Furthermore, it is necessary to implement and prioritize this law, taking reports more seriously.

Article 77 of the child law mandates the presence of child protection centers in every governorate to receive reports and complaints when a child is in danger. “However, unfortunately, based on my previous experiences and the complaint about the hotline, it has not been an effective experience. Attention should be given to this issue to protect the child,” Rasheed said.

Moreover, article 91 of the child law states anyone who commits any form of violence, psychological abuse, neglect, cruelty or exploitation against a child shall be punished with imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding KD 2,000 or either of these penalties. There is an entire section in the child law that includes penalties to ensure protection of a child.

The post Living with abusive parents: Victims share experiences appeared first on Kuwait Times.

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