Long-Term Effects of Physical Abuse

by rebel8 31 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • rebel8

    Obviously this is a very personal matter. I can't believe I'm posting it here but I need to make myself. I'm probably going to regret this.

    I have discussed before that I was physically abused and neglected as a jw child. The abuse did not start until jw got involved in our family. Obviously the jw abuser in my family was not forced to do it by the cult but clearly she was pressured to. Recently I had another one of those disturbing dreams and it has me thinking about the long-term effects.

    This scholarly article has some interesting information but little seems to apply to me.

    • Aggressive and Violent Behavior
    • Nonviolent Criminal Behavior
    • Substance Abuse
    • Self-Injurious and Suicidal Behavior
    • Emotional Problems
    • Interpersonal Problems (as defined by "feeling shy and self-conscious and feeling that one is not understood or is disliked"--I am the opposite, I am numb to others' opinions about me.)
    • Academic and Vocational Difficulties (I am successful in this area but have had some conflicts over certain things, always with a theme of me being unable to tolerate injustice or dishonesty, even putting myself at serious risk to rectify the wrong.)

    On pg 9 there is an interesting summary which names certain protective factors that predict better outcomes--cognitive abilities (interesting, I wonder why that would matter), returning to school (I did), and removal from the abusive situation during childhood (I wasn't).

    This article talks about physical health problems in adulthood. Bingo. So I guess I somaticize it all.

    So those are the consequences I generally don't have, what do I have? It's hard to figure out b/c I don't know what it's like to be a non-abused person. My guesses are a history of deliberately creating distance in adult relationships, even if it meant ending it just to avoid being too close, and a total lack of interest in being a parent (which IIRC did pre-date my jwism though), and my perception that life is a series of serial battles for justice to fight, and the one I'm going to win is always the current one. I also do not like physical affection from anyone but my husband. I dunno what that's about.

    A few times I've punched people who startled me. At least one deserved it. I hate being in a room with my back to others. I am generally prepared for warfare--guns in the house that I know how to use, etc. I check my car for people hiding in there before I get in. There are alarms and lights on my property. I know a lot about laws--studied it in college--and have exercised my legal rights many times. In fact my profession is legalistic. I guess this is all related.

    Please post your insights/experiences. Thanks

  • CandleLight

    Hi Rebel 8 :-)

    When something is so long term it is hard for the sub conscious to realize its gone. Especially triggers like being startled. Thing that have helped me is when my mind continues to take be back in time, I look around and evaluate where I am now. Am I really in danger?

    Looking in the back of your car is just good common sense. But feeling a constant state of awareness and fear of abuse from an undefined source is not. It's over. But your mind hasn't healed yet. Do what you can get process and heal, and you will be able to feel some peace.

    Much love and thoughts headed your way.


  • finally awake
    finally awake

    I was physically abused as a child, although not on a regular basis and not nearly as severely as many people here. I have never thought about my "issues" as being caused by or related to that abuse, I always just assumed I was weird. But I recognize a lot of the traits and habits mentioned above in myself. It seems that I have been able to build a relatively successful life for myself and my family, but I wonder what else I might have done without all that baggage weighing me down.

  • Anony Mous
    Anony Mous


    I hope you don't regret posting here. First of all, you may need professional help to get over some of your fears. It is always good to remain vigilant but I personally experienced that the world is not that bad out there and the majority of people are not out to hurt anyone. The fact that you can react violently to perceived threats is a big red flashing light with sirens that you're not over certain things.

    As one of my posts makes clear, I have also been physically and mentally abused and the abuser has always been protected by the JW organization (head of household, do not spare the rod, don't go to the police as this will bring reproach on the organization's name, no JW eye witnesses...) even though my brother developed epilepsy, my mother had seizures (which were blamed on demons), me and my mother both attempted suicide and I was thinking of it a lot, I attempted running away, I developed drinking problems at 16, the school and doctors started noticing etc.

    I've gotten over a lot of things but it will always have an impact. Write down what you actually would like to change (eg. affection from others, having to sit in the corner of a restaurant (I prefer that as well), always looking over your shoulder, having the feeling of being followed (I still have that as well), needing alcohol or drugs to calm you down in certain situation, always guarding your stuff and feeling someone is out to take it (I still have that)) and then make up a plan on how you will try to get over it. One thing you could do is just move over one booth or table in a restaurant so there's only 1 group of people behind you and get comfortable with it and for each point make up small steps you think you can handle and see how it goes.

    Talk to your husband and friends and see if they can help you with anything. I found out people will accept you and help you out especially if they know your background. Talk about your JW-involvement and abuse even though it may be difficult and you feel embarrassed, most people will not scorn you for it but try to understand. I have a lot of people that asked me questions about the JW and one of my friends actually had a JW come to his door and he had an enlightening talk with them about the two-witness rule and the abuse in the church (they formulated some excuse and left never to return)

  • IMHO

    I don't want to minimize what happened to you in any way but the symptoms you mention are suffered by many people for many different reasons. I don't see how (or why) they should be attributed to past abuse.

    I for one have many (but not all) of the symptoms you mention.

  • Anony Mous
    Anony Mous

    @IMHO I agree there are many reasons one could have these types of symptoms. Even though past abuse may not be the sole reason for it, the literature on the topic suggests that it can contribute to it (meaning there is statistical evidence that such people are more likely to develop it). Other reasons could be repressed memories of sexual or other abuse, the process of deprogramming from cult practices which likewise has an effect on ones social life, behavior and even sexual/lifestyle choices and preferences, adjusting to life outside a cult or without constant control etc. etc.

    I am not qualified to give any suggestions regarding the reasons behind it and I suggest nobody does give suggestions as to what the reasons are or are not, only a mental health professional can find that out after a careful process.

    I do suggest that if you have personal experiences and solutions or just something good to share that may help Rebel8 find some relief without going through (sometimes expensive) healthcare please do share. Sometimes all that one is looking for is to share their problems and they may not even need a solution just somebody that sympathizes with them.

  • mrsjones5

    "I hate being in a room with my back to others."

    My husband was severely abused as a child by his single mother. When we go out to a restaurant he never sits with his back to the front if the establishment, never.

  • its_me!

    Rebel8---I was physically and psychologically abused by my JW father. I have some of these symptoms, but the one that bothers me the most is feeling like nobody likes me. I know that it is irrational. I know that there is always going to be some who like you and some who don't. Perhaps the real problem is that it really upsets me when someone doesn't like me. I'm starting to address it and changing my internal dialogue.

    I tell myself that to worry too much about who doesn't like me is futile. I tell myself to do the best I can to be a good person, and not to care when someone doesn't recognize or appreciate it. I never realized how much the things I said to myself in my "brain conversations" were having an effect on me. I was constantly telling myself that I was stupid or ugly, or annoying. Really tearing myself down. I also have no interest whatsoever in having children. Have you ever analyzed the internal conversations you have with yourself? I would be interested to hear what you and others' who have been abused say to themselves, and if changing internal dialogue has proven effective in changing negative self images.

  • rebel8

    I can think of 2x I punched people who startled me, both about 20 yrs ago, grabbed me and I didn't know they were there.

    I am more vigilant than others and do believe others who suddenly grab me without my knowledge are still at risk of being hit though. So is anyone who hits me. Fortunately neither happen.

    The idea of writing down what I want to change is a good one. But...I don't want to hug people (ewww) and sitting in the middle of the room doesn't irk me enough to worry about it. Maybe the problem is I don't care?

    I get nutty around the holidays. I tried to pick arguments and can't stop remembering fighting/abuse when I was a kid during holidays. I've gotten much better with this very recently by positive self talk. Not too long ago, I couldn't stop talking about it at xmas dinner though I badly I wanted to shut up. I probably ruined several xmas dinners for others.

    the symptoms you mention are suffered by many people for many different reasons.

    That is totally true, I realize.

    I didn't mean to make this a thread all about me but I was genuinely wondering what others experience in the long term. Or maybe it all fades away?

    Have you ever analyzed the internal conversations you have with yourself? I would be interested to hear what you and others' who have been abused say to themselves, and if changing internal dialogue has proven effective in changing negative self images.

    Interesting. My conversations go something like, "People are idiots and it doesn't matter what they think. In fact if they dislike/criticize you it's because they're jealous/sad/hateful/don't like themselves/dumb/lack class/lack taste." Actually that's what they went like when I was a child. It's long been 2nd nature for me to not even consider what others think about me. I don't even think about it actually. I'm numb to it, to a fault. In my job I need to care a little about what others think and sometimes I totally disregard it.
  • trueblue

    Child abuse with the witnesses is something really hard because no one understands it, I know from personal experience, it is probably worse than being in the Vietnam war were many in service have developed post traumatic stress disorder. I have talilked to psyics, one says to me that I have ptsd under the worse case cinario ever heard of and doesn't understand how I have made it this far in life with out hurting myself or some one else and at the very least serving a life sentence in prison, but you know what has really helped me is knowing what it is that is bothering me, that is the key.

    You will never get over it, there is no cure, but it is treatable... What happens is there are events that happen that remind you of the past and your body has a physical memory and the events trgger your physical memory and sometimes to me I have noticed that it is like stepping through a time zone or another deminsion or something then you start reliving the past experiences as if they are still hapenning when they are not. For me the best thing to do is assert myself work really hard on something and wait for it to pass and realize that it will pass. Don't loose any sleep over it, it is vital that you get your reast, and stay away from things that remind you.

    You may need medication especially if you can not get your rest, I don't know you should consult a doctor on that. I think it is better if you can do it with out med.s myself, but again I am not a Doctor...

    They usually prescribe seroquel and lexapro.

    Be careful if you self medicate, that is pretty common for someone with ptsd to do. Stay away from the uppers...

    I would like to have a big fat Doobby about now myself.

  • rebel8

    Oh my gosh no, I don't have trouble sleeping related to this, or even anxiety really. I don't medicate in any form.

    What other long term effects do others experience? I'm interested to know.

  • Phizzy

    I hope you get the info. and insight you seek rebel, I have long been interested in how our formative years affect us, and if we can escape their effects.

    We seem to be affected in such a strong and subtle way by our early life, and the way we were treated.

    My father was not capable, due to his Autism, of understanding how other people were feeling, even his own children, I think that has affected me in a sort of reverse way, I am super-sensitive to the feelings of others, and hate to see them upset, or even slightly uncomfortable, I am the one to smooth over any "unpleasantness" as we stiff upper lip Brits call it.

    My childhood was normal for its era really, apart from being raised in the JW's , so I was not abused in any way. I cry for the children like you who were , and I shed tears now for those who are abused in so many ways in the JW religion.

    I wish parents could see the harm they are capable of doing, and replace that with the good that is in the power of their hand to give, namely unconditional love to their children.

  • Violia

    and my perception that life is a series of serial battles for justice to fight, and the one I'm going to win is always the current one.

    This was painful to read as it is how I have lived my life also. I must be vigilant as I must continue fighting to protect myself. I started to list what I have been through but felt too disgusted . What does it matter? My life has been forever altered by these experiences and while I have had a lot of therapy, having self respect after all this is not easy for me.

    What I have from all of the abuse is what soldiers used to call " shell shock,PTSD and also dissociative disorder.

    Here is an article I found to explain the difference , there is a link between them and they do overlap.


    my life feels like being the redheaded bastard child at the family reunion , always fighting for my right to exist.

  • trueblue
  • jamiebowers

    The only long term effect I cn think of in relation to severe physical abuse as teen by my non-jw father and in early adulthood by my jw huband is an exaggerated startle response. It happens every time someone suddenly comes up on me. As far as poor physical health is concerned, the more disabled I become, the more concerned I am with easy access to weapons at home and personal security measures.

  • AdaMakawee

    I have read recently that in brain scans of adults who were abused as children, the brains showed the same PTSD as those of combat veterans. Yes, post traumatic stress syndrome is common in adult survivors of childhood abuse. I too have this. You don't have to have every symptom to have PTSD. But if you are a survivor, you have a lot of similarities. I always know who is in the room with me. Never sit without my back to a wall if I can help it, and have had to work for years on being ok if people don't like me. I was told over and over for too many years to count, that I was stupid, that no one liked me, that no one could ever love me, that I was bad, etc. That psychological component to the abuse will haunt you for years. I've had therapy, but you can never have too much to help you because it will always be with you at some level or another.

    When I meet others with similar histories I always say they are in the club. You can always tell.

    But hey, not only did we survive, but we are the most excellent people that we are today because of our past experiences. I'm not saying that is ok, but we are not responsible for what someone else did or said, just for ourselves. So cheers to all of us survivors.

  • rebel8

    Ada, I just found this page: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/dsm-iv-tr-ptsd.asp

    I don't meet the criteria for PTSD for the physical abuse, though I come closer if you include the medical neglect whereby I was allowed to nearly bleed to death numerous times. I hadn't thought about that. ETA: Nope, still don't meet the criteria.

    I used to treat people for PTSD and am familiar w/grounding techniques, etc. but I don't experience those things myself. My empathy to those who do. (( ))

    trueblue, are you suggesting we shouldn't try to help ourselves now because the Imaginary Bearded Sky Daddy is going to delete our memories some day in the future? I assume you are posting that scripture because your jw inculcation taught you to, but please know that is kind of offensive.

  • IMHO

    ... or as Dr. House would say "All parents mess up their kids"

  • Phizzy

    The poet Philip Larkin put it more succinctly "They f**k you up, your parents do...."

  • trueblue

    rebel8 I posted the scripture because I wanted to remind myself that there is hope. not to offend anyone but you don't make any sense, posting this thread trying to figure out wether you have ptsd then state you use to treat people with ptsd. If you already know then why ask?

    stab me in the back

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