I work with women every day who have had hard lives, many with very tragic experiences. The things that happened to them as children were not their fault. However, the problem is when they continue the cycle into adulthood, the outcome becomes their fault. Today, we are going to talk about breaking the chains from your childhood, so that what started out as not your fault, does not become your fault.
Some of the childhood experiences that are common in the lives of women living in poverty are:
- Abuse – Sexual, physical, and emotional. The abuse is often perpetrated by their parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and other family members.
- Abandonment – Several of the ladies I encounter were abandoned not just by their father, but oftentimes by their mother. Even more than that were abandoned by almost every intimate male partner they have had. The male is often gone before the baby even arrives.
- No Father – Unfortunately, almost every woman I encounter in the shelter did not have a positive father figure in their lives. They either were not around at all, were present sporadically, and/or was a source of negativity.
- Violence – It may have been in the home, or in the neighborhood in which they lived. Physical fighting, gang violence, police violence, and just an overall rough environment.
- Poverty – Almost ALL of the women that reside at the shelter I work at grew up in poverty. That is the population we serve. There are different levels of experience with poverty, but common factors are lack of food, clothes, housing, low education and employment rates, high rates of negative contact with the legal system, single parent households, and dependency on government services for survival.
Once you become an adult and continue the cycle, it changes from outside sources and “life” happening to you…to YOU choosing to continue the cycle. No matter what we go through, we do have choices. Even when you are not aware of it, or when you do not like the options available to you at the time. Once you are an adult, you are responsible for yourself. Most people are not going to care about what you went through, they are going to care about the person you are now. Not everyone is a Social Worker or Psychologist. If they become aware of your childhood/past, they are still only going to care to a certain extent. The reality is people are going to judge you by how you live right now.
If you question this, think of the stories you hear on the news, let’s take child abuse for example. When it comes out in court that the person who is abusing a child, was also abused when they were a child, no one cares at that point. The defense can have the most convincing Psychologist testify to how the defendant was abused their entire childhood, and how it is a common pathology to revert back to what you are familiar with, even when it is a negative behavior. The jury and public may understand and sympathize to a certain degree, but most people will only look at that person as the “predator.” No one gives him/her a pass for molesting children, and/or physically abusing children. The entire community throws the book at them and says “that’s no excuse for what you did.”
When a CPS worker enters a home that has rodents, no food, and is unclean, they do not give the parent a pass because they were raised that way. When a mother allows her boyfriend to molest her daughter and says “it happened to me” no one says “that’s okay, we understand that it happened to you so we will not judge you for allowing your child to be sexually molested to keep your man around, or to not cause a scandal in your church or family, or because you think she deserved it because she’s fast.” You may think these scenarios are extreme, but unfortunately, they are common……and not just with people living in poverty by the way.
If you have experienced these or other childhood traumas, I encourage you to seek help and break the cycle. These experiences are difficult and there is nothing wrong with needing help. Unfortunately, in the African American community some still believe that if you need/receive mental health services or counseling that you are weak. Girl, if you have experienced trauma in your childhood and it is still causing you difficulties in your adulthood, you better get yourself some help! Do not wait until a tragedy happens, and then sob in court about how you were abused. Take proactive action now, so you can avoid tragedy. Most importantly, you do NOT want to continue the cycle with your children.
Some positive outlets are Therapy, Counseling, Coaching, Mentoring, Support Groups, Spiritual Deliverance, Prayer, and Education. A trained professional will listen, and then give you positive tools and coping skills to heal. The best Counselor is God. Pray and give it to Him. Read His Word to find healing and peace. You can also read self-help books, motivational blogs (such as this one!), magazine articles, watch movies about people who faced trying circumstances and overcame them, journal, attend workshops and conferences, and surround yourself with supportive people. Sharing your own story is also powerful. The more you release the trauma and change for the better, the stronger you will become.
You have to break the cycle in your life, and start new. If not for yourself, for your children. It didn’t start off your fault, but if you continue it, unfortunately Sweetheart, it becomes your fault.