Research has shown that nearly 75 million people worldwide drink alcohol excessively. According to Livestrong.com, there are more than a million children who are victims of child abuse and are living in a household with a drinker. Typically alcohol has played a part of an approximate 9 out of 10 of these child abuse cases.
Physical abuse is not caused by alcohol but rather by the choices and actions the abuser engages in while under the influence. Acts of physical abuse can vary from burns to cuts and bruises, in severe cases, neglect, rape and other forms of sexual abuse. Alcohol use and physical abuse can both be described as learned behavior, which is why there is a higher chance of an abused child growing up to also be physically abusive. In certain situations the abuser simply does not know any other way to act, other than what they have experienced in their own childhood or adolescent years.
When a parent is heavily intoxicated, they are obviously not paying attention to their children. It's no surprise for this reason many children go unfed, which can lead to severe malnutrition, lack of proper rest due to fear of being abused, and some cases no medical attention is sought after if the child is seriously hurt. The affect of abuse branches out way beyond home life and can affect a child's attitude, performance in school and the development of important social skills such as trust, communication and respect.
As a young child develops, they will pick up on behaviors displayed by their parents. If the parent figure in their life is abusive while drinking, the child may begin to associate drinking with violence, or associating abuse with anger or a way to control others when they are upset with something. A child may grow up thinking the best way to control their own children is to also abuse them.
It's important to remember that not all heavy alcohol users will turn physically violent or abusive. The two do not always go hand in hand, but it is extremely important for the children to be removed from hostile situations such as this where they can feel safe and protected rather than punished and alone.
If a parent is ready to get help for alcohol use, there are some non treatment programs that have been proven to be more effective than 12 step programs. The main difference with non treatment programs is that the person will tackle their learned behaviors and how to display self control rather than just trying to deal with an existing "disease." There are ways for people to overcome alcohol permanently without ongoing support meetings or rehab visits.
For children who are abused it is very important for them to also get help through loving family members and possibly the right child psychologist. Not all children will grow up to be abusers themselves, especially if they learn how to deal with emotions, fear and anxieties at an early age. The best way to ensure this is to expose them to a loving environment where aggressive behavior and derogative language is avoided, parents discipline in a productive manner and the child is shown unconditional love.
If you or someone you know is a victim of child abuse, contact your local child welfare agency. A list of toll-free numbers is available at www.childwelfare.gov. For an emergency, however, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency right away.
Of Course, preventative measures are just as important too. For a thorough introductory guide to preventing child abuse, take a look at Darkness to Light’s “7 Steps to Protecting Our Children.” Some of the steps are as simple as talking to your child and making a plan.
Guest Post: Written by Melissa for Saint Jude Retreats, which is an alternative to traditional alcohol rehab. As well as writing for St. Jude’s, Melissa also enjoys writing about topics that include health and relationships.
Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International