Monday, 23 July 2012

There is a piece about domestic

violence in the paper this morning. Oddly, it was something we were discussing at the knitting guild on Saturday. One of the women there has a sister in an abusive relationship. It is one of those ghastly, messy situations involving a cult like religious sect, children, money and violence.
What interested me on Saturday however was what M was saying about the children. They are attending a very small school run by the sect. There are, apparently, no computers, few books or teaching aids. M has visited it just once on an occasion when she needed to pick the children up.  The curriculum appears to be as narrow as they can make it within the bounds of what is required.
None of that really surprises me. I know of other similar schools and home-schooling situations. There are a number of small, cult-like groups around. Restricting what the children learn restricts the questions they will ask about the outside world. It makes them easier to retain within the group. They are taught what they claim to be "old-fashioned" values.  
As this was being discussed on Saturday one of the other women asked,
       "Do the children know? Does he bash her around?"
M's answer was, "I don't know. The kids think their father is great. I don't think he hits her."
       "Well as long as the kids are okay you don't really have anything to worry about. It's when they start to bash you around that you really have something to worry about."
Really? M was appalled by the statement.  I was too. I am well aware that emotional abuse can be every bit as bad as physical abuse. It is, in some ways, worse. It is worse because the damage it does cannot be seen. The perpetrator can often be charming to everyone else. The victim is often seen as "just a bit depressed" or "nervy" or as behaving in some irritating way.
I once called on someone not long after her husband had died. She was left with two children in the secondary school. I expressed my sympathy and she broke down and admitted, "I'm glad he is dead. I hated him. Nobody knows what I went through."
She had lived for years in an abusive relationship with a man everyone else thought was "lovely".  When I thought about the signs were there. She was quiet and meek. She often seemed nervous. We thought he was very patient with her.
It turned out her children were aware of it but had remained largely silent. They thought it was normal. It just goes to show how wrong you can be. They were not "okay".


JO said...

During my years in Child Protection I helped bring this to the fore (I have papers and conference presentations to my name) - and it is now recognised in the UK that living in an abusive environment is harmful. (I recall a policeman, after visiting a family, insisting the children were fine because they were hiding in the cupboard under the stairs and so didn't actually see anything!)

Miriam said...

"...emotional abuse can be every bit as bad as physical abuse. It is, in some ways, worse. It is worse because the damage it does cannot be seen." Quite right!

the fly in the web said...

I too knew a 'nervy' woman who rejoiced at the death of her did her grown up children.
They knew about the emotional abuse all right.

catdownunder said...

I suppose they thought the children were hiding there for the fun of it Jo? Madness.
Miriam - hugs.
Fly in the web - wonder how many outsiders recognised it?