The Protective Child

An unfortunate emotional product that can emerge within the experience of an abused child is the phenomenon of loyalty. At first, the child is shocked by the ferocious behavior of the parent, but matters change quickly when conditions become repetition. Though the child will translate these events as a reason to bear shame, a child’s undeveloped mind is not acutely aware of a source of options regarding the intrinsic need for love that all children possess. The innocent mind of a child understands that while the parent is abusive, the parent is also expressing actions of care, providing aspects of living such as food and clothing. Maybe the situation allows for the parent to act impulsively, being harsh and cruel in the one moment, and kind and smiling in the next. A duel pattern of interpretation evolves for the child, and since the child is bound to the parent by natural circumstance, the child knows no other truly substantial form of cognitive interaction with another human being, excepting siblings and other family members.

Though the child may either internalize/externalize the conflict that forms from this duel understanding, the most curious effect of the dilemma is when the abusive parent is confronted by another adult. In many cases, the innate attachment to the parent by the child will devise emotions that overrule any option to inform or provide evidence to convict the abuser. Knowing deep down the parent has hurt them, screamed at them, intimidated them, a strange shift in disposition arises when the child perceives a threat toward the parent. The child may grow defensive, even going as far as to exhibit a sense of protection for the parent. For the child, abuse has become a part of life, and he/she does not understand that an entire world exists on behalf of the protection for abused children.

For some people, this protective attitude will linger long into the days of their life, and when thinking upon the matter reflectively, may perpetually refuse to accuse a parent of any wrongdoing, no matter the ingrained pain and damage inflicted. “But she was my mother; but he was my father,” they will say, and in the end, in a very sad portrayal of a mutated “balancing of the scales,” the horror of child abuse is somehow justified and overlooked because “it was all so long ago.”

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