What does a child cutting have to do with domestic violence? This dilemma was recently posed to me. “I need to ask you about something. I have a friend at school that is cutting because her parents fight all the time. What should I do? “
Now, let me set the scene a bit clearer. The young girl who brought this matter to my attention just turned eleven. Her friend is probably barely 10 years old, and cutting because she is living in a home that is apparently fraught with verbal abuse, at the very least. Nothing was disclosed regarding the existence of any physical violence. Those familiar with domestic violence are quite aware of the potential of things turning physical before all is said and done. It is almost unheard of that physical abuse is not preceded by verbal and/or emotional abuse.
We are also sensitive to the fact that children learn what they live. Lessons are being taught, whether the parents realize it or not, whether they care or not. Their offspring is learning to either perpetuate the abusive behavior, or in this daughter’s case, learning to perpetuate being a victim. Unless things change in that home, she is most likely to date and/or marry abusive men—if she lives that long.
My suggestion was to encourage her friend to talk with the school counselor, and even offer to go with her, if it would make her feel more comfortable.
I ask this question: How can a 10-year-old be cutting, and her parents not know it? Has the arguing consumed them to the point they are unaware of such a thing right under their noses?
What can we take from this? First and foremost—LISTEN TO THE CHILDREN. If an 11-year-old child can step in and advocate for her friend, what more can we do as adults? Secondly, THINK OF THE CHILDREN. They are being affected by everything going on in their environment. Encourage them to open up. Be sure they know they have a safe place to turn.
Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Victim Support & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, bringing information and awareness to organizations seeking to properly help and support victims. Hear various interviews at the Broadcasts page of her website: orangeblossomwishes.com.