Monday, July 18, 2016

Long Term Effects Of Childhood Abuse

After being a victim of material abuse and working for years in this field I am drawn to books and movies which try to address this subject. Some do it well, while others simply do not come close to understanding the underlying difficulties and traps victims fall into while attempting to live their lives to the best of their abilities.

Last evening I watched a movie “Ultimate Betrayal” (Amazon movie library)based on the lives of four sisters who accuse their father of multiple charges of abuse and sexual assault. The sisters were ultimately awarded $2.3 million in compensation and the case led to a proposal for a Child Abuse Accountability Act to change statute-of-limitations rules.

This is not an easy or lighthearted matter by anyone’s standards and I felt this particular movie attempted to show the viewer how deeply a child is affected by the abuse which flows over into adulthood. In this case the four sisters face their past and take their father to court in a civil suit for damages. This abuse runs deeply into their adult lives and nearly paralyzing one from having any semblance of normalcy. The film touched on the dysfunction of their adult lives and then focused on the story of each daughter’s treatment from their father which led to the problems they are now facing. The two brothers in the family, while agreeing their father was very abusive, refused to accept that their father molested their sisters. The attorney of the daughters has their father to appear for deposition at which time he denies any wrong doing. The father, Edward J. Rodgers Jr., refused to appear in court. He admitted that he thought of himself as a "domineering s.o.b. who demanded strict responses from my children, strict obedience." But it never approached child abuse, Rodgers said. "Did I make mistakes? Damn right I did, just like any other father or mother..." He was a former F.B.I. agent who had become to be a Colorado authority on child abuse. [1]

In 1994 this story was brought to the television viewing audience. The sisters are played by: Sharon (Marlo Thomas), the oldest of the Rodgers sisters, Sharon is in denial about being abused herself. All of the sisters, including Susan (Mel Harris), Beth (Kathryn Dowling) and Mary (Ally Sheedy), have had their adult lives badly damaged by childhood experiences. Exposing the brutal truths may salvage their futures. The movie is very detailed in the description of the abuse and at times is difficult to watch.

By the end I was drained, yet left wanting to know more about this story and the adult lives of these women. My search for more information left me with only reviews of the television program 1994 and a couple newspaper articles at the time of the 1990 trial, which bring me to this writing. The reviews of the film were not favorable. Not because of the acting but because of the subject. One article which is footnoted above was a sarcastic synopsis at best. The writer chose to pass over the actual problem and focus on how the subject had been in the news far too much and that Hollywood used its typical tactics to bolster the drama to make the story bigger than it really was.

Another article stating: The impact is diminished, ironically, by graphic flashbacks using child actors. Too frequent not to seem gratuitous, the scenes contain little that can't be seen in the expressive faces of the adult leads.[2]

As you might have guessed by now, I have a much different view than either of these two writers, one being male and one a woman (which I found interesting in its own light). This case is from 1990 and the press coverage gave little to no understanding of the lives victims of child abuse endure. Far too many of these children never speak out for fear of retaliation from their abusers or the shame they carry thinking somehow what happened to them was in some way their own fault. Many grow up saying to themselves “I will never treat my children they way I was treated”. The sad truth is many victims do go on to produce more victims as this is the method that they were taught as parenting and how to deal with unruly children.

We can change this pattern of abuse. Child abuse is not to be taken lightly. The horrors we are seeing each day in our society have direct correlation to how we are raised and treated as people. There are lessons we are taught on a daily basis about who deserves, and who doesn’t. No one deserves less than another and I for one cannot stand by and say nothing when I see injustice or maltreatment of others.

I know there will be many who will see this as just more words on a page and will go on about their day or find fault in the subject agreeing with the aforementioned writers who felt the subject was sensationalized and over talked about and made bigger than it is. I also know there are more who will read this and find a way to put their own voice to use, to participate in the positive change in our world. Please don’t be someone standing on the sidelines, step up and step out for peace. When we learn peace at home we use peace throughout our daily lives. When we use peace we show others how to make peaceful choices which will ultimately change our world. Nothing happens until one person does something different. What will your difference look light today?