Growing up with family violence involves on-going exposure to terror and intimidation. Its impact on us as children is long-lasting because it distorts our behavioral, emotional, social, and physical development.
Because of what happened in our homes, we were forced to find ways to survive on a daily basis. Consequently, we developed certain strategies for survival that we carried into our adult lives that formed patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. They often create problems in our relationships and sabotage our efforts to navigate the normal process of maturing.
If you were one of those children, the fact that you are here says that you have come a long way and may be searching for more help and support for your journey. From the Heart of An Abandoned Daughter will give you further inspiration to develop the courage to seek healing and wholeness.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Children’s Alliance
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Futures Without Violence
Love Is Respect Program for Teens & Parents
Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Woman’s Place (St. Louis, MO)
Drug rehab (a web resource; provides information)
US Department of Justice
Center for Disease Control & Prevention
Disclaimer: Reference to these websites is intended as possible resources and does not constitute an endorsement.
The information, strength, and guidance that I found through these four books helped me navigate the unfamiliar journey that led me to wholeness and healing.
These are only a few of the resources I drew from.
Black Swan: The Twelve Lessons of Abandonment Recovery by Susan Anderson
Susan Anderson presents Black Swan as an allegory that is designed to help adults internalize a message of healing. The Black Swan is a symbol for healing, a spirit guide for overcoming the woundedness of abandonment. “The lessons take us through the recovery process step by step—from discovering our center, to developing a new sense of self, and finally to making a new connection.”
Enhancing Resilience In Survivors of Family Violence by Dr. Kim Anderson
Dr. Kim Anderson’s book is based on the research program in which I participated. While it focuses more on educating, it contains amazing stories of women survivors. She highlights these key topics:
Dynamics and consequences of family oppression and violence
The power of recovery and post-traumatic growth
Assessments that capture client strengths, resilience and acts of resistance
Spirituality: making meaning of one’s trauma and purpose in life.
Anderson underscores the resourcefulness of her clients and illuminates the many ways people prevail during and in the aftermath of family violence.
Linda Graham, MFT, has written effectively about resilience as the ability to face and handle life’s challenges, whether everyday disappointments or extraordinary disasters. She also provides us with a practical guide that integrates mind, body, and spirit through the use of practice guides. Her book is groundbreaking in that it brings together ancient wisdom, relational psychology, and modern neuroscience.
Gregg Braden is internationally renowned as a pioneer in bridging science and spirituality. He helps us understand the role of beliefs in our life, how a change in our perceptions—a shift in our beliefs—holds a timeless secret to healing, peace, and even reality. He maintains that the key to healing is to understand what belief is and how it works in our life. Much of our struggle to move beyond our wounds is due to our limited beliefs. The author invites us to move beyond these false limits.
• When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse by Lundy Bancroft, 2004
• Healing Your Emotional Self: A Powerful Program to Help You Raise Your Self-esteem, Quiet Your Inner Critic, and Overcome Your Shame by Beverly Engel, 2007
• Changing Course: Healing from Loss, Abandonment, and Fear by Claudia Black, Ph.D., 1999
• The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself by Beverly Engel, M.F.C.C., 1990
• Outgrowing the Pain: A Book for and About Adults Abused As Children by Eliana Gil, Ph.D., 1983
• Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise by Jane Middelton-Moz, 1990
• Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw, 1933
• Crawling Out: One Woman’s Journey to an Empowered Life after Breaking a Cycle of Abuse No One Should Have to Endure by Casey Morley, 2014
• The Power of Resilience by Robert Brooks, Ph.D., Sam Goldstein, Ph.D., 2001
• True Self-love: Heal the Old Wounds and the Self-love Will Come On Its Own by Alexander Janzer, 2013
• Healing Is Remembering Who You Are: A Guide for Healing Your Mind, Your Emotions, and Your Life by Marilyn Gordon, 2013
• Lost In The Shuffle: The Co-Dependent Reality by Robert Subby, 1987
• Raising Resilient Children by Robert Brooks, Ph.D., Sam Goldstein, Ph.D., 2001
• The Secret of the Shadow: The Power of Owning Your Whole Story by Debbie Ford, 2002
• Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families by Charles L. Whitfield, M.D., 1987)
• When Violence Begins At Home: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Ending Domestic Violence by K.J. Wilson, 2005
• Getting Free: You Can End Abuse and Take Back Your Life by Ginny NiCarthy, 2004
• The Courage To Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis, 1994
• Helping Her Get Free: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women by Susan Brewster, 2006
• Trust After Trauma by Aphrodite Matsakis, 1998
• The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations for Codependents by Melody Beattie, 1990
• Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach, Ph.D., 2003
My love for trees prompts me to include the names of some of the books that I have come to appreciate. These volumes have inspired and nurtured my connection with our beloved trees that contribute so much to our well-being and that of our planet. Enjoy!
• The Tree That Survived the Winter by Mary Fahey, 1989
• The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees by Stephanie Kaza, 1993
• The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, 1999
• The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono, 1985
• A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, 1943
There are many reasons why it’s difficult for women to leave an abusive relationship. Here are some of the primary reasons.
- She is unable to support herself and her children.
- There is a lack of affordable housing.
- She is unable to pay medical expenses, rent, etc.
- There is a lack of transportation/childcare/other resources.
- It is possible that she would lose her own job.
- She loves her partner (abuse often starts after relationship has been established).
- She hopes that he will change (abuser often promises he will do better).
- She feels guilty; she believes she has failed as a partner, mother, or person and assumes blame for the abuse.
- She is emotionally dependent on her abuser.
- She believes she is responsible for keeping the family together and wants the children to have a father.
- She believes she must try everything she can to make it work.
- She has strict religious beliefs regarding marriage.
- She has disabling symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the violence.
- She feels hopeless.
- She experiences confusion/depression/anxiety/shame.
- She has low self-esteem.
- There’s a good chance he will kill her if she leaves.
- She remembers the trauma when she tried to leave before.
- He threatens the safety of her children or other family members.
- She has never been alone.
- She may lose the support of family and friends.
- He will be violent when she tries to leave.
- She might lose her children.
- She is socially isolated; isolation is often created by the abuser.
- She doesn’t want anyone to know she’s being abused.
- She has no place to go.
- She regards the abuse as normal because she grew up with family violence.
- She has traditional values.
- There are issues with child custody.
There are multiple factors that influence how children who witness and grow up with family violence are impacted, such as:
- The age/stage of development/gender of the child.
- The level of violence/degree of exposure/length of time of the abuse.
- The relationship to the non-abusive parent.
- The presence of at least one significant, caring person in the child’s life.
These children are traumatized on multiple levels:
Behaviors may include bedwetting, problems eating or sleeping, stress-related illness, and physical injury.
Feelings of guilt, fear (including the fear of abandonment), sadness, anxiety, loneliness, depression, and anger (which covers over a multitude of painful feelings), limited ability to identify feelings; emotional abandonment by mother; learned self-abandonment; and problems creating healthy relationships.
Problems may include persistent anxiety, hyper-vigilance, PTSD, boundary issues, and the inability to trust. They may be either aggressive or timid, and may have a distorted sense of self or a distorted sense of normalcy.
Other effects of family violence on children:
- They may experience multiple losses, including the relationship with the abusing person, the loss of childhood, the loss of safety, and loss of carefree play.
- They have a sense of responsibility for what is happening but have no voice to address it.
- Their choices are based on fear, shame, silence, and secrecy—rooted in distorted beliefs.
- They have distorted beliefs about self, others, situations, etc. (e.g. anger causes violence).
- They develop survival strategies that create problems in adult life, such as people-pleasing, the need to control, perfectionism, etc.
The key to addressing these effects:
If we can identify the strengths that helped us resist and survive the trauma of family violence, we can redefine our experience, rather than allow it to define us, and integrate it into our ongoing experience by rewriting our life script from a position of strength.