How can abuse affect the psychological and emotional lives of adults? Mental health professionals believe the effects of childhood abuse are great. Listen to the internalized shame of an abuse survivor:
“I could not tell anyone. I already felt dirty and damaged. If I told someone, then he/she would know just how dirty and disgusting I truly am. I had to keep up the facade,” said Candace, an abused stepdaughter who was physically and emotionally abused for 18 years.
The shame runs deep, which is one reason why John Lemoncelli wrote Healing From Childhood Abuse: Understanding the Effects, Taking Control to Recover. Motivation for recovery, a clear perspective on the effects of childhood abuse on adult functionality, and emotional “first aid” is at the core of this book. It is not the typical book on childhood abuse, which often focuses on the perpetrator. This book attempts to motivate the reader to pursue “recovery” through understanding the effects of abuse and the ways they can benefit from treatment.
Pain leads many like Candace to keep their abuse covered for years. The degrading remarks, isolation, and assaults all lead to feeling worthless and unloved. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, about 73% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows (family member, peer, coach, etc.). The fact that most victims know their perpetrator means abuse is often that much more difficult to cope with. Not only is the survivor reeling from the abuse itself, but they must also deal with grief. And that grieving period is devastating.
While the book hits some great points about abuse and focuses mainly on the victim, it lacks emotion and a real set of tools that victims can use to cope. An important element seems to be missing from the pages: clear guidance on how a victim can step into healing. The title seems to imply that the reader will find tools to “heal” and “recover.” But there doesn’t seem to be enough literal information on how a reader can design plans of action.
The beginning hooks the reader by telling the story of a young woman named Tammy. Tammy was a victim of circumstance. Her father left the family when she was young and her alcoholic mother abused her. She kept this devastating secret well into her adulthood where the reality of life caved in on her. She was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and lacked the appropriate coping skills. “Recovery” was far from Tammy. She confided in the author, a childhood friend, and explained that staff at the hospital lacked the ability to help her. Many told her she ought to “get over it.”
This is the beginning of Lemoncelli’s multiple stories on the effects of abuse and trauma. He supports the notion that it is difficult to simply “get over” abuse. He explains that we need to understand the full effects of stress, trauma, and abuse on the victim in order to help them.
Toward the end of the book, Lemoncelli examines the effects abuse can have on spiritual development. But this part of the book is quite controversial. The author states that a survivor’s perceived unworthiness and inability to trust others “prevent any level of intimacy” with a spiritual being. He believes that a perception of a spiritual being as Father is problematic for those who have experienced abuse. While there may be some truth to that, it narrowly defines and almost completely diminishes the Christian faith for Christian readers — and of course leaves out a lot of other faith systems. The idea that one’s spiritual life is often altered by past experience with abuse is not completely convincing. Not everyone has this experience. It is sometimes when one pursues a belief in god, for example, that they find solace and healing in their spiritual lives.
Still, the book examines “self-forgiveness,” “people-pleasing,” and setting boundaries, all important concepts. It does a somewhat good job of showing how abuse is traumatizing, mind altering, and emotionally debilitating. And it says that although survivors have often become accustomed to pain, there is hope, however far away it may seem.
Perhaps most important, Lemoncelli makes it clear that victims should “never minimize” or “invalidate” their pain. While the book lacks many other important elements, that emphasis alone is refreshing.
Healing from Childhood Abuse: Understanding the Effects, Taking Control to Recover
Praeger, April, 2012
Hardcover, 171 pages
Psych Central's Recommendation:
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Hill, T. (2014). Healing From Childhood Abuse: Understanding the Effects, Taking Control to Recover. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 1, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/healing-from-childhood-abuse-understanding-the-effects-taking-control-to-recover-2/00018698
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Feb 2014
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