Effects of Witnessing Child Abuse

by Katie
(Alabama, USA)

I've written about this before, but I feel like I need to get it out of the way again, because I still see these people at random times. When I was ten, I spent the night at my best friend Venessa's house. She was talking on the phone with someone she called her "boyfriend" and she handed me the phone, but I didn't know what to say so I gave it back to her. There was some older guy on the phone and I thought it was weird for an old guy to be a ten-year-old's boyfriend.

The next morning I woke up, and I think she and her mom were already fighting. I can't really remember what led up to it, but before I knew it, Venessa's mom was kicking and punching her on the front porch. The cars driving through the neighborhood honked their horns and some of them slowed down. Venessa's mom yelled at them to call the police. She didn't care anyway and kept hitting her. I ran to the room and called my parents, but Venessa stopped me before anyone answered and told me not to tell anyone because they'd take her away from her house and she'd have to go to a different school and we couldn't be friends anymore. She convinced me not to tell....

Later on that month, someone called at my house and I answered. It was a man's voice and he asked for Venessa, who I assumed was my sister because her friends called the house a lot. I told him it was me, Katie, and he said, "Oh...then can we have the sex?" It freaked me out, and my dad who was in the room saw something was wrong. He took the phone from me and started asking questions. My sister got in trouble for letting guys call the house, especially guys who sounded drunk. I never told them I'd talked to the guy in my friend Venessa's house. In fact, my family doesn't know anything about what happened to her or that man, and I still don't know who the man was.

I still see Venessa and her mom, who is apparently part of a housing program for the mentally ill in my city (which ironically, my dad works for).

I don't think I was ever abused, but I witnessed it and it definitely has hit me pretty hard.

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Comments for Effects of Witnessing Child Abuse

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Nov 14, 2008
TELL someone...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Katie, there can be no secrets when it comes to child abuse. Your friend Venessa was physically abused by her mother that day, and it sounds as though she may be experiencing sexual abuse as well. Tell your parents and/or a teacher or counsellor at school. Your friend may well be in danger. You can't be thinking about whether or not she'll be taken away. Children and youth are seldom removed from the home; removal from the home happens in the worst of cases, so you don't know that she will go somewhere else. What must be your first concern as her friend is her safety. Even if she gets angry at you for telling...ask yourself whether you would rather have her safe or in physical danger. Ask yourself whether or not you'd ever forgive yourself if something bad happened to her and you knew you could have done something to prevent it, but didn't. I know this is a lot to deal with for someone so young; I understand all too well. I've been in your position myself, but when I was a teenager, there were no organizations to call for help. Everybody just turned a blind eye. I urge you to contact Child Help at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) in order to talk to someone about this. They are staffed 24/7 with professionally trained counsellors who will listen to you. They are not a reporting agency, although they can help you through the process of reporting if you decide to disclose the abuse you witnessed.

The effects of witnessing the abuse and the thoughts that have plagued you as you try to figure out what this man was or possibly still is doing to Venessa are traumatizing you, Katie. Talk to someone about this. You deserved help just as much as Venessa does.

Thank you for sharing this with my visitors and me.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Nov 15, 2008
by: Katie

This is my problem: I'm 19 now and so is Venessa. We grew apart as we grew older. I've never spoken a word about this to anyone, and now that Venessa's older and has a child of her own, I think it's too late to say anything. I should have spoken up back then, but I was a kid and I just lived with the secret we shared as best friends. I stayed quiet for too long and now I don't think I'll ever be able to help her.

From Darlene: Now that she's an adult, she's the one who must ask for help and be ready to reap the benefits of such help. Don't beat yourself up for what you didn't do as a child. Remember, you were a child, not someone more mature with more mature values. If and when Venessa wants help from you, you'll be ready to be a listening hear. You'll be ready to help her find resources that can help her. Until then, you need to take care of yourself. I urge you to seek out some form of counselling, Katie. A counsellor may be able to help you put things into perspective. Just remember, what happened to Venessa wasn't your fault any more than it was Venessa's fault. Neither of you are to blame for what happened. So stop taking the rap for something you had no control over. Be a good friend to Venessa now and find some purpose behind the effects this witnessing had on you; that's the best you can do.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

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