It’s been a difficult series of blogs to write about the various kinds of abuse. I’ve talked about physical, sexual, and verbal/emotional abuse. There is one more kind of abuse I’d like to address before concluding next week with a detailed list of how you can learn to deal with abuse going on in your own life, or help someone you know who is going through abuse.
What Is Neglect or Abandonment?
You can be considered neglected or abandoned when you don’t know where your parents are, if they have left you alone, or have failed to maintain contact with you. It also includes being left alone in circumstances where you suffer serious harm, lack adequate food, housing, clothes, medical care, even education or supervision.
Abandonment can include just walking away from the family, it can include divorce, and it can even include suicide.
You might be thinking, “I’m old enough, I can handle being on my own.” So many kids wait around an empty home for their parent(s) to come home from work everyday. While I don’t want to dismiss the emotional effects of this, I’m talking more about a situation where you have no idea when or if your parents might ever come home. Sometimes older siblings are left to take care of younger siblings for extended periods of time. I’m not talking about babysitting. I’m talking about not knowing where mom is, or where dad is, and having to find a way to survive on your own. This is neglect and abandonment.
This also includes a parent who disappears from a child’s life. It can happen at a very young age, or it can even be when you’re a teenager or young adult. Abandonment can include simply walking away from the family, or it can include divorce, and it can even include suicide. The common factor is an outright decision by the parent to not be a part of their child’s life any longer.
Netasha expressed her sadness over having her father leave her mother when she got pregnant. "They went through all the court stuff and he told the judge I was his mistake and that he wanted nothing to do with. So it’s not that I hate him or anything, I'm just disappointed in his decision. It would have just been easier growing up with him around. I'm about to graduate high school and go to college and he isn’t even here to watch me get my diploma. It’s heartbreaking."
With a parent who has abandoned a child, it’s easy to try to fill that void with unhealthy relationships. Kristy commented on how she’s lured into relationships with destructive guys: “I am lured to these guys because I have almost no relationship with my father, and I want to replace that missing love with a boyfriend. Having the poor relationship with my father makes me feel like I did something wrong or need to prove I'm worthy of love from a man. Therefore, I'm attracted to a jerk who will test my limits and make me endure mentally and emotionally scarring situations to prove I am worthy.”
It’s easy for anybody, regardless of age, to think the disappearance of their parent is somehow their fault. This is not the truth. As a young person, you cannot carry the blame for a grown adult’s abusive decision. They are simply operating out of their own place of hurt and pain, and that can be caused by a number of things, in particular, their own abusive upbringing.
As a young person, you cannot carry the blame for a grown adult’s abusive decision.
Neglect and abandonment are huge issues, and can actually be the form of abuse that leads to almost all other addictions. It’s normal to feel angry when you have been betrayed, abandoned or hurt in some way. If that anger is not dealt with, you will soon become bitter and blame others for the pain.
Neglect and abandonment are huge issues, and can actually be the form of abuse that leads to almost all other addictions.
If you determine you are living in a neglect/abandonment abusive situation, it’s important that you tell someone. Find someone you can trust to talk about what’s going on at home. It will help you get perspective on your situation, and help you decide what actions you need to take to protect yourself. You can always call my Hope Line: 1-800-394-HOPE (4673). If you are in immediate danger, contact the police (911) as soon as possible. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
Travis also has some good advice: “It definitely helps to have two or three good friends you can turn to anytime you need anything. I usually try and make myself to be one of those friends they can turn to, a shoulder to lean on, and someone they can confidently trust.”
There is always hope, and next week, I’m going to give you specific ways to deal with abuse going on in your own life, or someone you know. I look forward to hearing from you the ways you have discovered how to survive an abusive situation. Please write and tell me your stories of hope.