Monthly Archives: November 2014

Abuse Hides in Plain Sight

Honey Boo Boo at Home with Mama June

Consider the shocking recent stories of Bill Cosby and Honey Boo Boo. We assume those we see in the public eye to behave in line with their public images. In situations like these, when we discover that abuse was occurring, we often discover that there was coverup and fear by the victim of revealing the truth. Victims feel ashamed. They may be threatened by their abusers.

Victimization is often a pattern. Abusers and those who allow abusers to cover up are living their own negative and dangerous patterns.

The Honey Boo Boo situation sounds incredible, yet this terrible pattern is not unusual. We see similar patterns in child welfare court on a regular basis. Child sexual abuse involving a parent who is not protective recurs in certain families. It is not uncommon for a parent to fall in love with a child abuser and to allow the abuser into the family home, as well as to allow the abuser around the children. The more unusual thing is that this time it came to light. Abuse often hides.

The Cosby example is an illustration of this principle. I’ve heard people ask why now – why are the victims coming forward now?

The answer is that victims are afraid to reveal their truth, abusers often bully, abusers often blame the victim, abusers often threaten the victim that coming forward will lead to dire consequences. Sometimes, abusers even bribe to maintain silence. Victims are afraid, victims are ashamed to be victimized, victims are afraid to be re-victimized, victims are afraid of retaliation, victims live a private hell of personal distress. They came forward now because there are others and because this provides safety and lessens fear.

Perhaps surprisingly, studies show that victims are often re-victimized and even that prior victimization is a risk factor for recurring victimization. Victims were often abused first in early childhood – and then re-abused. Protecting their parents and blaming themselves is a standard behavior on the part of child victims – in part because children need their parents for survival. In addition, denial is perpetuated because dissociation and avoidance are common physiological responses to trauma in the brain.

When it comes to abuse, maintaining silence is a recurring theme. The rest of us are often clueless, except in unusual cases when the truth is revealed.

Early Life Stress May Lead to PTSD Despite Loss of Memory of the Trauma

Early Life Trauma

A recently published study out of the University of California at Los Angeles and the University at Albany has shown that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) may develop in people who have no memory of the trauma. These findings are significant on the subject of dissociation. It supports the understanding that the process people undergo when they suffer serious or ongoing trauma may include dissociation from the the pain or intensity of the experience which may lead to long-term memory loss of the incident. However, dysfunction in the body’s stress response system nonetheless occurs.

The researchers found that levels of the stress hormone corticosterone in the brain were increased in those who underwent early-life traumatic events and that despite the lack of memory of the event itself, the subjects continued to experience anxiety and fear when faced with similar situations. Stating that early life stress is particularly impactful, the study made the finding that traumatic experiences may cause life-long harm to “the ability to cope with future stressors and emotionally salient events.”

The study is published in the recent issue of the journal of Biological Psychiatry: Amnesia for Early Life Stress Does Not Preclude Adult Development of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Rats.