Guest Author - Kelli Deister
This article is meant for parents that suspect their child might be practicing self-mutilation. Many victims of childhood sexual abuse would never dream of coming forward with their secrets, for fear that others will not believe them, or worse yet, someone will blame them.
For the teenage abuse victim, it becomes a matter of hurting themselves in order to numb the pain that their perpetrator has inflicted upon them. Many victims of sexual abuse will turn to self-injury, with the hopes that it will remove the intense pains they feel within themselves. However, it does not completely remove the emotional pain which they might be feeling. The problem with self-injury and self-mutilation, is that the victim will grow used to one means of hurting themselves. Over time, that method will not work any longer. It will no longer numb their pain; consequently, they will perhaps try cutting a little deeper next time, pinching a little harder, or taking a little bit more of alcohol or drugs, in order to numb the pain. The hunger for the self-injury does not stop or go away. Rather, it increases to a new level. Self-injury is self-abuse. It is an addiction. It has taken me many years to come to terms with this fact.
If you, as a parent, suspect that your child is harming their bodies, there are signs that will alert you to their behavior. If you notice your child suddenly wearing long sleeved shirts or sweaters on a warm day or you notice that they have the need to use the restroom immediately after each meal, please sit down and talk with them. Do not judge them or criticize them, but be available to listen. A child that is cutting themselves will wear long sleeved shirts, jackets, or sweaters everyday. A child that is anorexic or bulimic might be playing with their food when the meals are served, by using their fork to move the food from one side of the plate to the other and nibble at the food. If the child is bulimic, they will go to the restroom immediately after binging and throw everything up.
Please consider finding a therapist to talk with your child, if you suspect they are hurting themselves. Scolding them will only drive them further into it. Instead, sit with them and just listen. Listen to their fears and offer encouragement in a timely manner. With your help, as their parent, they can get adequate medical care to overcome their addictions and obstacles.