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Barriere Bits, Issue #011 History of child abuse amplifies pain sensations: US Study
April 14, 2008

Welcome to Barriere Bits, the child abuse information e-zine that will provide you with international child abuse information.

In this issue, you'll find child abuse news from:

The Website:

You may have noticed a few changes in the visitor contribution pages on my site. The most noteworthy, and the one that has caused the greatest concern, is the fact that there is no longer a comment form on the individual story, article, commentary and Ask Darlene pages. Rest assured, your comments are still highly valued and welcome. A new system upgrade has now placed comments and the comments form on two different pages.

Access to existing comments for any contribution can be found through the last link on the bottom of any of those pages. That underlined link reads, "Click here to read or post comments." Once you arrive at the page with the comments, you'll find another link just beneath the title that reads, "Click here to add your own comments." This latter link will take you to the comments form. If there are no existing comments on a submission, the link will read, "Click here to post comments." which will take you directly to the comments form.

If it sounds confusing, don't worry; it'll make more sense when you actually get to a page. The reason these changes were made was to accommodate even more future upgrades to the system.


US Study:
A study by researchers at UCLA and the University of North Carolina shows that a history of child abuse amplifies pain sensations in adult women. The researchers compared pain responses in a group of women, some who suffer with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and some who do not. Both groups of women had endured physical and sexual childhood abuse. Although the test group was small (only 20 women), the subjects who suffered with both IBS and had a history of abuse stated they felt more intense pain than their non-IBS suffering counterparts when they were subjected to mildly painful stimuli.

The use of FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) brain imaging allowed the authors of the study to document the pain experience of these women. The data showed heightened activity in the sensation and emotion regions of the brain in the women who reported a more painful experience. The study included results before and after psychological treatment in order to establish whether or not this heightened activity was permanent. The after results showed that with treatment, the effects can be reversed.

My Comments: I give a thumbs up to any study that shows the value of therapy. Even though the subject numbers in this study were small, I believe it gives hope to those who both suffer with chronic pain and have a history of child abuse.

In last month's issue, I reported that the Maryland Senate had passed the Child Abuse Reporting Bill, which, if passed in the House of Delegates, would make failure to report suspicions of child abuse a misdemeanour for teachers, health care workers, law enforcement officers, and other professionals.

Earlier this month, a committee in the House of Delegates rejected this bill, a vote that will more than likely prevent it from becoming law this year.

My Comments: Given the outcry in February and March over this bill, the rejection vote comes as no surprise.

Governor Steve Beshear is expected to sign a bill that would have suspects facing a first degree sexual abuse charge when their victim is 16 years of age or younger. Currently, the law allows such a charge only when the child is 12 or younger. Suspects who are in a position of authority or trust over the child, such as a teacher, counsellor, youth leader, etc., could face the same tough penalty when the child is 18 or younger. If this bill passes into law, the victim will have up to 5 years after the incident to have charges filed.

My Comments: While I believe this proposed bill is heading in the right direction, it fails when it comes to filing charges. There should be NO statute of limitations on child abuse, period. It can take decades, let alone 5 years, for abuse victims to feel safe enough to disclose, let alone pursue justice through the court system.


The State government admits that due to a chronic shortage of social workers, there are thousands of reports of child abuse not being investigated. They claim the cases involve only allegations of emotional abuse or neglect, which are given a lower priority than child sexual abuse. The Public Service Association (PSA), a group that represents social workers in South Australia, disputes that claim. They say that cases where there are allegations of child sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, as well as child neglect are being closed without assessment or without an investigation being launched. The latter claim is supported by Guardian for Children and Young People, Pat Simmons, who went on record to say that the child protection system is unable to keep up with growth in demand.

The claims came on the heals of a 600-page report that was tabled in Parliament last week by child sex abuse commissioner, Ted Mullighan, who told Parliament that the system was in "crisis" and that social workers were "carrying heavier workloads than they should."

Families and Communities Minister, Jay Weatherill said his department would be implementing the recommendations set out in Mr Mullighan's report, which included recruiting and training more social workers.

My Comments: I'll give another thumbs up with a caveat: The government must understand the problems within the system as well as the ones with regard to recruiting if they have any hope of adequately addressing this shortage. The social workers themselves, both the ones who are still on the payroll and the ones who are no longer, need to be consulted; otherwise the mistakes of the past will continue.


A bill introduced in Mexico's Senate last week would raise the minimum age for marriage to 18 for both sexes. Currently, the minimum age is 14 for women and 16 for men. Lawmakers believe that a minimum age of 18 will help keep children from dropping out of school and going to work in order to support families, creating a vicious circle of poverty.

It is estimated that nearly 400,000 Mexican children between the ages of 12 and 17 are either married or living in a common-law-type relationship. Most of these marriages are reportedly entered into after an underage girl gets pregnant, because men in many parts of Mexico can avoid going to jail for statutory rape if they marry the girl. Economics, cultural traditions and societal pressures mean that in some communities, arranged marriages for daughters are still the norm, despite the fact that many parents understand the negative impact on their young children.

My Comments: The way Mexican law reads now, it's nothing short of legislated child abuse. While I give lawmakers in Mexico City the thumbs up for wanting to change the legal age requirements for marriage, and thus put an end to this particular form of legislated child abuse, poverty often dictates practices.

But even if Mexico City is successful in passing this minimum age-of-marriage law--which would bring them in line with a UNICEF worldwide recommendation—the age-old traditions will be hard to break. Even worse, each state would be in a position to legislate their own rules governing marriages. Until poverty is addressed in all its form, I don't see where these proposed changes to the law would change much of anything in Mexico.


Based on a recent court ruling, as well several from the past, Korea is unduly negligent when it comes to making abusive parents accountable for even the most severe incidents of child abuse. The case of a couple who starved their three-year-old son to death comes to mind. The court suspended the sentence of both the mother and father in this case. The judge delivered a soft sentence, citing that the couple's second child needed to be taken into consideration.

My Comments: According to this judge, death by extreme malnutrition of one child is not a red flag of abuse for another. Consider some additional information: The couple stated that their son refused to eat when they gave him food, and that they were too poor to take him to the hospital. But when prosecutors investigated further, they found that the couple had both frequently seen doctors when they themselves were ill.

I don't know who is the more pathetic: the couple who let their precious 3-year-old little boy starve to death, or the judge who so willingly set aside the evidence and has now put a second child at risk. Shameful.

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Author Bio

Darlene Barriere is a child abuse survivor, a violence and abuse prevention educator and author of On My Own Terms, A Memoir. She lives in semi-arid Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, John.

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