Money and child abuse

In a recent interview Bernard mentioned that Equal Money is not the end of child abuse. Listening to his interview coincided with a recent documentary I watched where child abuse was the central theme. In this post I talk about my experience with child abuse, and some observations that I made when watching the documentary. In the end I suggest that Equal Money is beneficial because it empowers abused children, who generally have to grow up fast to get away from their parents or caretakers. Equal money would give abused children the means to pursue their life without having to compromise themselves to their abusers.

I was brought up in a typical middle class family. As a child I often heard that I came from a “good” family. I mostly heard this from relatives in response to me asking for help because of the psychologically distressing situations I experienced with my parents. I suffered a lot when I was growing up, and could not understand why my parents were so disenchanted with me, and essentially so abusive.

The relatives I was close to as a kid were mostly elderly women. All of them told me the same thing, that my parents know what is best for me and that I must honor my parents. As far as I remember none of them really ever listened to what I had to say. To them as to my parents, children had very little say about anything, and especially not about how they are being treated.  Generally I was cut off as soon as I started to talk about my painful experiences. The sisters of my grandmother were very religious, one of them was the equivalent of a nun. Both sisters were childless. They would often quote bible verses on the conduct of children towards their parents. Speaking up, or speaking against your parents was not part of the bible’s message. You were expected to obey your parents, they were the absolute authority no matter what was at stake. Needless to say I went through a lot growing up. I had to grow up very fast, because I was constantly stressed about psychological “survival”. Up until very recently I thought that I had coped with the situation pretty well. I still struggle and especially in regards to being in contact with my parents, but since I started to work with DESTENI there has been a fountain of emotion released from deep inside me – emotion that has been suppressed for many years.

From today’s perspective I can say that the internal workings of this family where one ongoing covert pattern of abuse by both parents. No doubt they learned to be abusive from their parents. My brother and I were brought up never to never take anything that was going on in our family to the “outside” world. In other words, do not tell anyone or else. Black mail, threats, and guilt were my parent’s method to make sure their behaviour was neatly tucked away and remained hidden from anyone. In this way they preserved their pristine middle class image. Now I finally get a chance to look at what I have internalised by engaging in the practice of self-forgiveness.

The first time I ran away from home was at the age of 11, and then at the age of 15 I left home. Money was a huge issue.  I was forced to return home after I had moved out because I became asthmatic between the age of 15 to 20, and there were long stretches where I was unable to take care of myself. Prior to getting very sick with asthma I went to school and worked but I also received money from my parents. At that time I was even to weak to walk, I was mostly lying in bed. At the age of 21 I finally left my home town, still astmathic, and I have not returned since, except for brief visits. Shortly after I left my asthma stopped and I have not been asthmatic since.

I recently saw the documentary, “Rough Aunties” which centred on a woman-led organisation in Durban, South Africa, called Bobby Bear. Here a group of women work hard to take care of sexually-abused children within a window of opportunity, that is, immediately after an assault. In this way they can save the children from contracting HIV within a limited time frame by providing medical care that can prevent the contraction of HIV. This is the main goal but the organisation takes on a spectrum of tasks that involves protecting and educating children. The reality these women and children are faced with is so raw, so abusive, and exemplifies to the utmost what we have allowed and participated in, it does not make this film easy to watch.

Even now weeks after having watched the film, the faces of these children have left their imprint. In particular there was an 11 year old girl, who was living with her uncle. In the film there is one scene where one of the “aunties” is in conversation with the uncle, who is the child’s caretaker. In a face-to-face conversation, he mentions that he “provides everything for the girl”, and that he does not understand why she would run away repeatedly.  He also states that the girl has a “criminal mind”. To illustrate this, he describes a scene, where he would buy a pack of six yoghurts and place them into the fridge. The girl would eat them all and put the empty containers back into the fridge in such an impeccable fashion that these looked untouched. This scene in particular reminded me of my own childhood. Whenever I would dare to “speak up” about the abuse I was experiencing, my mother angrily told me how “I had everything”,  and that I had no reason to complain, that I am an ungrateful child.  I also remember having performed a similar action to hide what I had consumed by making it look untouched and putting it back onto the shelf. I was no older than 7 or 8 years at that time.

In the documentary the scene shifts and the same “aunty” is speaking now with the 11 year old girl, whose face is flooded with tears when she is asked about her living circumstances. She does not say much at all. She begins to describe one situation to illustrate how afraid she is of the uncle. In this situation she is visiting with a friend and they watch TV, and she repeats that she was hiding from her uncle who was coming to pick her up. The scene shifts again, and this time we see a different “aunty” examining the girl’s legs and finding all kinds of scars that speak of deep and profound wounds inflicted through physical abuse.

During my childhood in the beginning of the 1970‘s the word abuse was a ‘dirty’ word that belonged to the same category as swear words, and people from “good” homes would not mention them in any kind of family context. Equally, child abuse was not considered to be existent in the middle class. Then, child abuse was associated with broken and divorced families, especially those of poverty, or where parents had extensive problems with addictions or there alike. Whether for me or anyone else in a similar situation, there was no place to turn, an organisation that would have taken my experiences seriously. At that time I needed someone to put what I was experiencing into context for me and explain that it was abusive and unacceptable. Someone who could have confirmed to me that I was not going crazy because I could not cope with how my parents were treating me.

In the last thirty years, and particularly through the internet some aspects of this situation have changed. As seen in the documentary, there is an increasing awareness that child abuse must be attended to and cannot be ignored. Though the effort being made is still much too little and often much too late. In the documentary, one “aunty” states how difficult it is to get funding for her organisation – she even goes on to make an appeal on YouTube for sponsorship.  Four years ago I started to find sites that were talking about personality disorders that described the patterns I am experiencing with both of my parents. More people have come forward and shared their experiences that they endured as children.

It is an ongoing theme for these people to cope with their memories and the internalised pain. Much advise is given on how one should respond to these patterns when having to deal with abusive family members. But these approaches that are being offered are mere bandaids, they do not reach to the core of the problem as DESTENI is suggesting through the DESTENI “I” process. Moreover, to make it a lasting and paradigmatic shift, the world must self-realise that Equal Money is the only way forward. The premise of Equal Money is that life is being valued for being life, not as it is now, for performance and material goods. Equal Money means Equal Money for everyone from birth to death.

When I was 15 years old and the world would have accepted an Equal Money system at that time, I could have developed myself without having to return to my parents. As it is I am only infrequently in contact with them. Through self-honesty, I recently realised that the only reason why I still speak with my parents is because of money. My life has not been straight forward. I have lived in a number of different countries and have spend much time studying. During my professional life I have not focussed on the acquisition of material status but on what interested me. Now I am in the process of completing my thesis. My parents are not rich but they have supported me through this time with a small stipenend. Through self-forgiveness practice I realised that I still participate within this relationship because I am willing to deal with the strings attached to this money. In other words, the groceries I can buy with this money ensure that I feel obligated to be in contact to my parents. When writing a thesis, evey small amount of money counts to buy time for research. But the deeper underlying issues are my relationship with money, which is yet a separate programme that I am running and I need to forgive to move past it.

As for the girl in the documentary shot a few years back, or for me about 30 years ago, we both would have greatly benefited from an Equal Money system. We both realised that things are wrong where we grew up and we both knew that the only road to recovery was away from those who were abusive. The awkward hoops that have to be jumped through to even get involved with social services are not an answer either. Bobby Bear is an unique organisation, a human-oriented organisation, where bureaucracy is kept away from interfereing with saving these children. There might be a handful of these organisations around in the world -a grain of sand in an ocean of abused children. In my case, social services would have never been an option because I did not fit the profile at the time and I was much too scared to tell someone “official” what was going on in my life.

As Bernard said: Equal Money will not fix abuse, but it sure as hell will give abused children the means to make decisions and follow up on removing themselves from those who abuse them – for the rest of their lives!

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