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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Psychological Maltreatment - This may be where the bigger story exists

A new study published in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy raises the notion that the impact of psychological trauma is greater over the long term versus other forms of abuse. While certainly not diminishing the impact of other abuse, this research really helps us to see how important taunting, demeaning, bullying, insults, shunning and isolation can be. These behaviours strike at the very heart of the worth of the victim and seem to create long term changes to the victim.

I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Monty Montgomery from the University of Saskatchewan at a recent conference. He talked about the power of transformation. This research is really about how psychological abuse transforms the person to one whose self understanding is rooted in a lack of seeing the self as worthy. The research noted that there is a link to depression, anxiety, attachment and substance abuse.

Yet we are also faced with the fact that psychological maltreatment is a hard form of abuse for child protection to address. How bad does it have to be? Certainly there is a need for some level of persistent pattern by a parent or caregiver - but I suggest that we do not understand the level of harm needed for child protection involvement. Further, it is probable that other forms of abuse (sexual, physical) are perceived as much more dangerous. They are also easier to substantiate.

If we are going to be successful reducing all forms of inter personal violence, then we have to accept that this is one that must be addressed. When we take a child and debase their worth in childhood, they will move into adulthood well versed in becoming a victim. It is in childhood that we create protective attitudes that allows a person to draw the line against violence in many forms.

But we are also a society that values psychological violence - the audience waits for the moment when the person gets voted off the island and reality shows thrive on the put downs of participants. Then there are role models like MMA fighting.

It is a very different notion when we ask what can I do to help the other person feel valued.

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