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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

The Marks of Trauma & Abuse

Most of us, when adopting a child, have no idea what we’re getting into. Uppermost in many adoptive parent’s minds is the question: was my child abused?

Probably the more accurate question is not if, but how. What are we talking, is what parents want to know: sexual, physical, verbal, emotional?

Whatever the form, abuse leaves marks, often on the psyche or body.

I was speaking with the kids recently about their bathing suits. They had outgrown last year’s and I said I was buying them new ones, along with long-sleeved rash guard shirts, for extra sun protection.

“Mama,” one daughter came to me privately, “may I have shorts to wear, also? Maybe a swimsuit with legs?”

Our family tended toward one-piece suits, so I tried to explain that some of the boy-leg styles were rather micro-mini, and didn’t have much “leg” at all to them.

“Why the shorts?” I asked. In my mind, the reason might be anything from modesty and bottoms that ride up, to an aversion to shaving.

“The mark on my leg, I want to cover it,” she said.

“No problem,” I reassured her. “Let me look for some nylon shorts that will dry quickly like a swimsuit. Anyway, you know, I would never notice the mark, but if it bothers you, we can cover it.”

This was the mark of abuse—a hot iron, applied to her upper back thigh, by some maniac. Nice. She could escape the former life, but never entirely be free of it.

This was the age when girls noticed every mark, bump, hair, pimple, and other aberration or oddity known to young people. Me, I’d have to put on my reading glasses and be in a room with strong lighting… and even then maybe not see it. No wonder I had let myself go….

Abuse and trauma have many long-lasting marks and tell-tale signs. When some kids with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) face the pressures of life, they emotionally shut down. Maybe they’re put on the spot for an answer in school, asked if they stole something at home, or lied about where they were… bam! The Iron Curtain falls.

Other kids who don’t zone out may respond with aggression, and want to yell, talk back, swing at you, or otherwise become belligerent or violent. The anger and rage, bottled up over years, has come to a seething, boiling head. And they lose their head in the process.

“In the moment”, there’s little that a parent can do in terms of talking them through it, or out of it. A change of setting, a calm and soothing voice, an unexpected gesture, such as an offer of a cold drink, or a scoop of ice cream may turn it around.

It’s the “unexpected”, shocking and shifting them out of the negative feedback loop. Counter-intuitive, you might say. Just about the time you’re getting sucked down into the negative spiral, they’re coming out of it.

The good news is that whatever has been done to a child can generally be undone. Like a shoelace that’s tangled, simply pulling harder or pulling more, could work against you. Relaxing the lace is easier.

Take your time and unravel the strands one by one. It might take a while, but things will straighten out.


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5 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Phyllis says:

    Very good points. Our oldest adopted just told me some things last week. We had suspected it, but glad that he told us.

  2. avatar J. says:

    The marks are indeed one of the hardest parts of healing, they are always a reminder. In terms of helpng her cover it though both Sears and Lands End sell womans swim shorts ( or at least they have in the past) and have tops that match. Not sure if she is big enough for womans sizes but it might help. There are also swim shorts at places like No Zone sunwear that are longer and sometimes come in great designs.
    PS loving that I can comment now, have been reading for a long time and often wanted to say things, thanks so much for all the great writing.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks so much for the ideas! I think I’ll go into designing swim burkas… 🙂

      And thanks for being a part of the chat. Now that we can take comments, everyone told me they’d rather go on spring break, instead, lol…. My reverse psychology is working, heh heh.

  3. avatar Kathleen says:

    The pressures of adolescence are causing our daughter to respond with agression. You are right, though, responding back with anger does not help. We love her. She is our daughter. Some days are so hard. I wish I could take all her hurts away, but like the other scars, even if we cover them up, they are there underneath.

    • avatar admin says:

      I know…. Over time, scars on the body will fade somewhat. I pray that the same thing is true for healing of the heart, that those scars in the emotional realm will lighten. It’s such a heavy burden for a young person to bear. The fact that all of our kids now have parents to help them shoulder it a bit, has got to help.

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