The beginning is a very good place to start when we have a problem or an issue that needs attention, and the rise of the many abhorrent forms of abuse in the world is definitely one issue needing urgent attention. But in light of the shocking statistics of domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse, cyber abuse and many more forms of abuse showing no signs of slowing down, the short-term solutions that are being used to counter this abuse appear to not be working. Is it time to ask ‘why?’

It has become obvious that the way we are looking at abuse is too narrow, that we are simply looking for a quick fix solution to get those steadily growing statistics down and instead begin to widen our area of questioning.

To get to the ‘why’ we need to take it all the way to the beginning; right back to when a baby is born.

I am sure that we will all agree that a baby, male or female, is not born abusive; in fact, the opposite is true, they are precious and vulnerable beings who need our constant care and loving attention for a long period of time.

So, if a girl is not born abusive, how does she end up as a woman who:

  • criticises and runs herself down on a regular basis,
  • abuses her own children,
  • emotionally abuses her partner,
  • physically abuses others,
  • uses social media to criticise, or even troll, others, often other girls/women,
  • and in the extreme chooses to become a ‘suicide bomber’, blowing herself and others up in the name of her God.

. . . and so, if a boy is not born abusive, how does he end up as man who:

  • hardens himself to fit in with society’s belief of what a man should be,
  • harms himself regularly by drinking excess alcohol,
  • abuses his partner and maybe even his children,
  • sexually abuses girls/women or maybe boys/men,
  • physically abuses other men,
  • and in the extreme, chooses to become a ‘suicide bomber’, blowing himself and others up in the name of his God.

Yes, you could say that the actions of the suicide bombers are the extremes, but in truth, all the others form a background level of abuse that we have come to call normal forms of abuse that make up the shocking global statistics that record the harm inflicted on individuals of all races, genders, religions and ages by those around them. It seems that we have focussed so much on the extreme forms of abuse – and even some of those are conveniently ignored by the mainstream media that have their own agendas – that we are actually missing, or maybe even deliberately ignoring, the more subtle ones, those that, if left to grow, may in some cases lead to more shocking or severe forms of abuse.

So, could it be that the first form of abuse for a little boy begins when all those around him submit to the widely accepted belief that a boy has to harden up so he can ‘be a man’ and, in the process, totally ignore how he feels inside?

How harming – abusive – is this to the being of a young boy who was born into a body that is so delicate, tender and sensitive? Then, when he is told that only ‘sissies’ cry, that he has to take any pain ‘like a man’ and to ‘play hard’ without any regard for his precious body he will, more often than not, make the choice to override how he truly feels, perhaps to simply fit in. His body responds accordingly, hardening itself for protection against a life that deep inside – in his essence – he knows is not true. The impact on his body by living in this disregard may not reveal itself at the time, but eventually it will and become yet another medical puzzle that will have us frantically seeking solutions in the years to come.

Could this overriding and hardening actually be a form of self-abuse?

And is it possible that, if he is bullied as a child, he begins to consider being bullied to be normal, and somewhere down the track he takes on the role of the bully himself? The abused becomes the abuser. Or will the acceptance of his position as the victim, of being ‘bullied,’ then enable others in their role as the ‘bully’ – the two sides of the same coin revealed.

Have we ever considered what frustrations rumble away within the body of a man who has been encouraged to be someone who he is not? Maybe it is this frustration that, when left to simmer, eventually boils over into the forms of abuse that we are seeing? His stifled expression, which will be deeply infused with the grief of ‘losing himself’ simply to fit into a world that is set up from day one so he does not dare live his true essence, finally finds a ‘voice’, but often one that is not a loving one, in any form whatsoever.

Of course, then there are those boys and men who will not allow the beliefs of society to squash who they are and so retain their natural tenderness and sensitivity. Unfortunately, many of them will pay a different price, being ridiculed, denigrated and generally being made fun of – all forms of abuse – by those around them.

In my late teens I had such a friend, a gorgeous, tender and sensitive young man who knew who he was and chose not to conform to what society expected of him. As a result, he was constantly on the receiving end of much verbal abuse, most of it in the form of deliberately unconcealed sniggering and whisperings behind his back. But it were several members of his family who verbally and emotionally abused him the most – simply for being who he truly was. He was devastated at the rejection he felt. (How often is it that those who we are closest to – our family – cause us the most pain?)

We lost touch after a few years and sometime later I heard that he had made the choice to live as a transvestite, a man choosing to live as a woman, at least on the surface. Upon hearing this I was not shocked or surprised as I had a sense that he had finally made the choice to remove himself from the endless abuse and to live in what he probably considered was the safest way possible. But as I never got to see him again, I will never know his reason for making this choice and whether that offered him the outcome he was seeking. For as I have come to know, we cannot run or hide from abuse, as that does not make it go away; in fact, hiding it allows it to fester in our body until the time we are ready to face it head on and to say yes to the healing that is on offer – or not.

Girls do not escape the expectations of society either, a society that once again is set up from day one to not support and nurture the beautiful delicate beings that they are. The abuse that is inflicted on girls can be a little subtler than that on boys and often begins with parental expectations of the girls needing to be pretty, to be perfect, in fact to be someone that they are in truth not, just like the young boy. It can become all about the prettiest dress, the curliest hair and seeking to be the best little princess ever. And a look at the marketing ploys aimed at girls is a great revealer of what little girls are aiming for and often pushed towards.

But what does this focus on the outside, how she looks to others and to the world, affect a young girl’s self-worth? Does she feel lesser than others if she is not pretty, does not have the perfect hair, the trendiest clothes and the perfect body? So, what then does she begin to do to gain this perfection? It becomes, in so many cases, about trying to be someone that she is not and it has been shown that even very young girls are often extremely critical of their bodies, thinking they are too fat, too short, their hair is not cool enough; the list of self-criticisms is endless. Amongst all this is the killer of comparison, endlessly comparing themselves to their friends, girls around them and the endless, perfect and often air-brushed portrayals of girls and women in the media filling the screens they spend hours trolling through to check out the hottest looks and the latest trends. And from comparison, in any form, inevitably arises competition and jealousy, both of which naturally result in ugly and very destructive outplays.

All these are forms of abuse. It is simply not accepting how each girl has her unique qualities, qualities to be honoured and to be built on, but instead trying to make her someone she is not. For in the process of putting on the mask she feels she needs to fit in and to keep up appearances, the young girl’s body is continually being abused by her to be thinner, fitter, more beautiful and more acceptable. And at the same time all around her and at every turn are adverts, magazines, TV shows, social media etc. convincing her every moment that she could be better, do better than who she naturally is.

And then running alongside this is the realisation that if she is the good girl, the best daughter, the best friend, the best girlfriend ever she will get more attention and more love. But is it truly love? She begins to seek what she believes love is – and the recognition that goes with it – through what she does and not who she is and in doing so once again becomes a false interpretation of her true self.

So, what happens to the essence of the girl while she is trying to be someone who she is not, simply to get attention from those she feels should naturally love her? How does this play out in her body?

Does the frustration of all that effort to be the prettiest, the best and the good one begin to build up inside her and, when she has a moment where she is not being recognised, does it burst out of her in the form of destructive behaviour? Her stifled expression, just like the man’s, may eventually find a way out, often in very abusive and destructive ways. But a woman can also present as being very quiet and meek, the unassuming one drowning in her personal sea of self-loathing or wandering in the desert devoid of self-worth.

So, no wonder relationships struggle under the weight of expectations when the parties involved (both men and women) do not understand who they are in the first place as they have been programmed from a very early age to be someone they are not. The set-up is real. At its extreme end it plays itself out in domestic violence that fills our news and keeps government services in perpetual overwhelm. At the other end it conceals itself in the day-to-day normal of dismissiveness, disrespect, bitchy comments, sly insults or worse still a polite ‘loving’ veneer maintained over a seething mass of judgement, contempt and disdain.

So here we are back at the very beginning of our lives, a place of innocence and joy. But then slowly the events of life intervene and as children we take on the beliefs and behaviours of those around us, usually without question, and begin to live them. In the process our childhood innocence will be buried, our natural joy will slowly disappear and we often end up in a place that is full of the abuse of ourselves which may eventually ripple out to the abuse of others.

It seems so clear that to begin to halt the cycle of abuse we need to go back to the very beginning of a child’s life, for it is our children who need to be truly educated if this deleterious cycle is to be broken. Not the education we consider these days to be normal but a true education which encompasses not only the traditional school education, but also one which begins in the home the day a child arrives in this world and one which is supported by friends, family and the community at large.

Every single one of us is responsible for the education of a child. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and that is more relevant than ever in today’s rapidly changing world. I feel very clearly that this way of raising a child will go a long way towards breaking the incredibly damaging cycle of abuse, a cycle that in every second of every day impacts so harmfully on a large proportion of humanity and much of which is never exposed.

This true education:

  • honours our young ones as the wise beings they naturally are,
  • celebrates and fosters their uniqueness,
  • supports them to understand themselves and others,
  • shows them how to care for, respect and honour their precious bodies,
  • teaches them that ‘everything is energy,’ and that to live with energetic integrity is our natural way to live,
  • teaches them to know they all have an equal place in this world,
  • is taught by people who live in accordance with what they teach and includes parents as an inseparable part of the education process.

And from this true education will come a generation of children who will not accept abuse in any form right from the beginning of their lives and from there living what they know to be true, the ripples of their livingness will then continue to flow out into the world and to the whole of humanity.

But we do not have to wait for this generation of children for those healing ripples to start flowing, for in truth, we can do this for ourselves. We can go back to the start, to the very beginning of our lives and by ‘re-parenting’ ourselves, under and by the light of our Soul, we can begin to clear away everything that was ‘done to us’ – and everything we did to ourselves – and then stand in the true nakedness of the newly born child. And from this place of genuine re-birth, we will ensure that the deeply entrenched patterns of harm begin to dissolve and eventually cease altogether. An abuse-free world starts with us.

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  • By Ingrid Ward, Community Support Person

    I am a forever student of life, people, nature and the Universe. As an elder I have a huge responsibility to share my lived experiences with others so they may understand life a little more; that responsibility is a true joy.

  • Photography: Rebecca W., UK, Photographer

    I am a tender and sensitive woman who is inspired by the playfulness of children and the beauty of nature. I love photographing people and capturing magical and joyful moments on my camera.