Disability and Child Abuse

by Sandy
(California, USA)

Don't Smile: 
Finally, at age 60, I am really trying to untangle the effects of growing up with a congenital facial disfigurement (Moebius syndrome) within a family system that included alcoholism, suicide, narcissism, emotional coldness and verbal abuse. But 60 years ago, I knew none of that.

There are numerous books available for parents that have kids born with disabilities. The books all describe the 'greiving process' and the incredible angst they all go through while adjusting to the baby with a (or many) disability. It must be assumed that the primary concern is for the parents' emotional state - and it's also assumed all parents "do the best they can" (in other words, think "Mother Theresa")

While there are autobiographies of people with disabilities, most tend to present the strengths their parents imparted to them, enabling them to be all they could be.

It's far more difficult, however, to find stories of people with disabilities whose parents were immature, narcissistic, emotionally and verbally abusive ... but still 'looking good' because the child was fed, clothed, etc.

I can't think of anyone in my extended family who even HAD a disability when I grew up. I was born with club feet, crossed eyes and a facial paralysis - all symptoms of Moebius syndrome (congenital facial paralysis). ALL I know re: my own childhood, came via long-ago observations and conversations ...

"Your father went out and cried the night you were born" (Hint - you really hurt your dad!)

"We were afraid to have more children because of you" (Hint - you totally *&^%$'ed up our family!)

No newborn pictures, no baby pictures, no baptism or first or second birthday pictures. When I asked, I was yelled at. Years later, I found some pictures - taken by relatives.

I was baptized at home. When I asked why, my mother yelled at me, saying that they didn't know whether I'd live or die.

When I started to ask questions re: why I couldn't smile, my mother said "you're just feeling sorry for yourself", "you're just DIFFERENT!" or "you want me to end up in Elgin (state mental hospital) some day?? STOP ASKING QUESTIONS!"

I remember absolutely no warmth at all from my mother. The only "warmth" I have 'found' are her smiles in pictures - or computer printed cards with syrupy messages - EASILY ignored by her. So her "warmth" was, at best, artificial. Yet she was convinced she was Mother Theresa.

The fact that I was teased in school as a kid - was absolutely a non-anything for her, same with ANY discussion regarding my very obvious facial disfigurement. My ONLY choice was to stop having feelings. I also decided to become a teacher, to (1) undo the (&*^$% of my school experiences by becoming the world's best teacher, and (2) who would ever want to marry ME?

While it most likely is true that parenting a child with a disability has challenges, the absolute same thing can be said for every child born with a disability! Yet I have NOT found ONE book that adequately describes these children's very real emotional needs! Being expected to always be grateful for a parent's "sacrifices" et al is NOT a mentally healthy concept for a child who did NOT prenatally engineer his or her own disability as a passive-aggressive maneuver against unsuspecting parents. "We" didn't pick what we got. Yet "we" are indirectly blamed as the source of parental stress.

Darlene Barriere: author. speaker. survivor. coachNote from Darlene: If I have not left a comment on your story, please understand that it is not personal; it's just that my hectic schedule no longer permits me to do so.

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Comments for Disability and Child Abuse

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Apr 15, 2010
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Thank you for sharing your story with my visitors and me, and for bringing to light the very real issues surrounding disability and child abuse at the hands of parents. You may not be able to smile yourself, but because of your choices and the way you've conducted your life (in spite of the horrors you lived), you have reached out and brought smiles to many, especially smiles from the inside. You are a shining light in the shadows of the secrets that keep disability and child abuse away from public view. Perhaps YOU will be the one to write the book that has yet to be written.

From Victim to Victory, a memoir
Darlene Barriere
Webmaster: www.child-abuse-effects.com
author. speaker. survivor. coach
From Victim to Victory, a memoir

Apr 16, 2010
O Angel of God my Guardian Dear
by: maurice

That is who you are to me after reading your story. God's special child, Oh yes, I am 63 years of age elder lemon single male. I have witnessed exceptional LOVE where children were born with a disability of one kind or another. Yes the immediate re-action of a mother is Oh No why me. but slowly the loving couple, faith couple begin to cherish and love their wee angel sent by God. The Mystery of the why they will live with. but as the child grows their acceptance grows; You were the unlucky child whose parents did not accept your beauty and you. were abusive, were cruel, But you were and became strong in your own right. I am Special, I love me, that is all that matters NOW. Darlene has been ever so affirming of your beautifulness and how you help others to live and to smile. There is a smiling you deep within you in the child you are allowing to be in you. You are great, you sure are a guiding light to those who value and respect you for who you are. I hope you write that BOOK. I can, I will, I must, Think Positive, Say, I'M SPECIAL I love me. Keep having a healthy mind in a healthy body. You are NOW in charge of your own destiny in life. Live well, laugh alot (within) LOVE much. God created me the wonderful and beautiful person I am. Sadly He gave me a Family did not see me like that.

Apr 22, 2010
to make a difference...
by: Sandy

In going back through the various mental health "services" of my past, I *never* found even ONE who could connect even two historical "dots" (like having a disability and being depressed). That ignorance stems, absolutely, from "if it's not in the book, it doesn't exist".

I've been doing ALOT of googling, yahooing and bing-ing - using every combination of words imaginable to find information re: emotional/ verbal/ psychological child abuse effects on people born with disabilities. While there ARE resources for people born with intellectual disabilities and 'multiple disabilities', I've not yet found information on long-term effects of growing up within a family that has many dysfunctional characteristics - when one has a disfiguring condition that may impede parental attachment, bonding; be stigmatizing, etc.

While some kids come into this world "wonderful" in the eyes of their parents, others are not so lucky. This second group - none of which told God at conception "OK God... do it! give me ____! YEAH! I wanna make them SQUIRM!" - these kids internally fight a real, fundamental battle - that their existence truly was unwanted to some degree.

I think this is the "dysfunctional, narcissistic societal family" NO TALK - these kids learn, early on, to be GRATEFUL for whatever they get, even though there is an abundance of research out there that says just how unwelcome these kids are!

The bottom line is that the PARENTS are (or should be!) the adults here. Their newborn baby - no matter what it may have (or not have) ... that baby had NOTHING TO DO with its birth condition. The BABY is the life-long victim here.

I'm sick and tired of seeing parent-perspective ONLY on websites ... "we know how you feel ... it was hard ..." ad infinitum. Those websites need to have, JUST AS PROMINENTLY, the impact their parenting will have on that son or daughter.

A few weeks ago, my mother emailed me ... 'how are you?' & 13 other sentences starting with "I". I told her - depressed, memories ... ACA. Her reply - "prayer" forwarded - very condescending. I replied "so this is how you respond re: depression?" No answer. None. I even sent a second email - are you mad at me? No response.

Her answer spoke volumes.

Jul 14, 2010
You are far from alone
by: Notumbo


I, too, was born with club feet, and your story is an astonishing parallel of my own.


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