Long-term Consequences of Child Abuse
Posted May 28, 2006
I am sure that all devotees have been shaken and moved by the recent suicide of Ananda das. We at the Child Protection Office offer our deepest condolences and prayers to the friends and family of Ananda.
Recently, there have been a number of letters that have alleged that this tragedy is directly the result of his physical and emotional abuse during his time at the Vrndavana gurukula. Of course, no one can know all the reasons for this tragedy, as each individual has their own responses to stressful conditions, their own personality, temperament, and past karma, and their own set of resources and support. So, while we cannot make a direct attribution of cause and effect, we can perhaps take this opportunity to better understand the effects of child abuse. We also should take this opportunity, as a collective devotee society, to reflect on how we can offer support to our youth and other devotees in difficulty.
Many devotees can understand the immediate trauma to the child who is abused. Perhaps less understood is the ongoing impact of abuse that continues into adulthood. These are some of the long-term consequences of child abuse:
- As many as 80% of young adults who had been abused are diagnosed with at least one psychiatric disorder. The most common problems include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. (National Clearninghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect).
- A fifth of all victims develop serious long-term psychological problems, according to the American Medical Association. These may include dissociative responses and other signs of post-traumatic-stress syndrome such as chronic states of arousal, nightmares, and flashbacks.
- Children who are abused often do not form secure attachments, leading to later difficulties in relationships with other adults as well as peers.
- A National Institute of Justice study indicated that abused children have likelihoods increased by 59% for juvenile arrests, 28% more adult crimes, and 30% more violent crimes.
- Abused children are much more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Two-thirds of people in drug programs were abused as children. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
This is only a small list of the many difficulties caused by child abuse. These difficulties continue throughout the life of the child, causing distress well into their adulthood.
Fortunately many people can be helped to recover from the effects of abuse. Of course, the best solution to all problems is a spiritual one. The process of hearing the philosophy and chanting the Holy Name is the greatest purification. But many of our youth have lost faith and will not take up these processes with conviction. They need help, friendship, support, gentle preaching, and most of all, care and love.
Let us use this tragic event as an example to improve our devotee society. Let us make sure that child abuse does not occur again in our temples and schools. Let us extend ourselves to our youth, and all devotees in distress, with care and compassion. Let us prevent more tragic and needless loss of devotee lives. To contact the child protection office, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.