If you feel the stress of the Covid 19 pandemic then you can only imagine being subjected to a lifetime of this. Imagine living your entire life in this situation. Being scared of tomorrow and waiting with nothing but fleeting hope. This is basically the life of a modern day slave or an abused child. This involves abuse on all levels. Being told what to do all day from laborious work to being mentally and sexually exploited with no choices of your own. You're in fear of your life and just taking orders. It is no life. It's modern day slavery and abuse. How can it be that this practice in such a modern day world still exists where there is no value for human life and we just let it happen.
How does this even start? Where does one get the idea in their head that this is acceptable behavior to treat someone like this. And being aware of their actions, what makes them think that they can get away with it. Or how is it that they are so brazen that they inflict this life on someone and don't value another humans life with no empathy at all. How is it as a society that we let it get this far?
I interviewed Maria Panatsidis, LCSW who owns Blue Lotus Psychotherapy and is a former employee at, St. Joseph's Villa (now The Villa), and currently works at Huther Doyle, as a senior counselor. Who has been working with children and adults as a Therapist of Trauma, Grief and addictions including sex and gambling for 7+ years. She works with both perpetrators and survivors. We discussed the beginning stages of a sex predator and abuser. How things begin and cycle through to others.
Maria explained to me what she believes are the best methods in preventing these things from repeatedly happening. She says some of the mind sets that people have in regards to being able to live through these things are deep rooted and have a pattern of cycling through generation to generation if not stopped. One thing that is evident is that the majority of these situations is that the abuser was also abused. And thus continues the pattern. We are certainly susceptible to our environments. If someone is sexually abused the chances of that victim abusing someone else is very likely. Unless there is intervention and real consultation the cycle will continue.
Now with the rise of technology people have taken to the internet to navigate their desires. Such things like child pornography and human sex trafficking are on the rise and are far reaching unlike, the old days were things were done only in certain circles.
One of the smartest things we can do is be aware of it and prepare at an early age to recognize the situation before it happens. And to teach those tempted in to performing such acts to show restraint and be guided by a moral compass that must come from within. Maria was adamant about education at an early age. The earlier the better. Some people think this is far too early to talk to kids about these sort of life lessons but Maria would disagree. Human trafficking, mental and sexual abuse have to be understood in order to defeat the spread of it. In many cases education can help prevent victims from falling into the trap of being kidnapped, abused or taken advantage of in any way.
Talking to our children and letting them express their feelings is one of the most important things we can do as parents and as a society. In many cases when A child has something to say it is crucial that we listen. Also one big thing is never pretend to know something you don't. If you are asked a question by a child don't lie. Kids are very intuitive and know when something isn't right. If they aren't taken seriously the scars will dig deeper as time goes on and the cycle of abuse only continues.
She suggests listening to your kids more and letting them talk freely. Let them answer open ended questions without interruption. Don't cut them off and finish their sentences. You also must know what to do when encountering a half truth from a child. She mentioned that kids very rarely lie about abuse. In this case the child might be in fear and does not exactly know how to communicate what they are experiencing. Remember in many cases they might be trying to tell you something horrific that involves a close relative or someone the family trusts. These sorts of things aren't easy for adults so I can only imagine what a child must go through. So it is important to let them start communicating their own feelings and not try to control what they say or how they act in many situations.
For instance children need to be able to approach other people on their own terms. In many cases we are told to show affection by hugs and kisses. When a child doesn't want to hug an older Aunt or Uncle we will often say things like; "Don't you want to kiss your Aunt goodbye". Or "Aren't you gonna give your uncle a hug". Maria says although this may sound like normal innocent socializing with a baby or toddler but it isn't good practice. The reason is we aren't letting our children learn how to think for themselves when we tell them how and when to do things in these situations. Even if it is a very standard social greeting. Children can be taught that we must listen to our elders all the time and in some cases this takes away their ability to make decisive decisions in what can be complex and dangerous situations. If they are taught to consistently comply then they won't learn how to take a stand when situations put them in danger. In many cases they were taught to listen and do as they were told and that can lead to extreme vulnerability. Without their own intuition they become easier to manipulate.
Education is absolutely the best line of defense. Counseling also has a role and can help but it must be met on both ends. Counseling goes both ways, just like the survivor needs closure and healing the abuser must seek therapy too. In order to begin the process of changing for good the perpetrator too must understand their own mental frame of mind in order to control their own actions. Please note that not all abusers are male, there are women involved in abusive roles too. It is often thought of as the man being the only abuser but in some cases Maria explained to me women will often use men to do the physical sol called dirty work. Such as punishment and any other dangerous criminal activity. Maria even went on how to say that women can display even worse and more viscous forms of abuse towards their victims.
People will justify their actions and lie to themselves when performing such atrocious acts like molestation. For instance if they were subjected to this they are more likely to continue to abuse others and the abuse will continue down to the next person. Sometimes people think since it happened to them then they should be able to do it to others since they were not protected themselves. This is their way of getting back.
Passing the pain along is not something someone may even realize they are doing but the human mind can run deep. When you start talking to an abuser a lot of these souls have been subjected to pain themselves that they just can't seem to let go of. Even if it is something they try to hide from themselves it boils to the top eventually.
In many cultures it is forbidden to even talk about these situations. There is a belief that it never happens and when it does it is literally ignored due to many reasons from fear to cognitive dissonance. And once someone reaches a certain age it is harder to open up about it. Maria says that while the majority of survivors have difficulty discussing their abuse, people over 50 have the most difficulty opening up, as they were the generation that "didn't talk about it" or anything remotely involving abuse outside of the context of the family. Also there is a higher percentage of African American communities that have the most stigma about communication in these situations. We must buck this trend and start having conversations with our youth in order to stop the deplorable practices and behavior that people like Susan B. Anthony And Frederick Douglass fought so hard to abolish.
If I learned anything from quarantine it is that freedom is something millions have literally died for and we are not living up to their expectations. This is not freedom when millions are still suffering. I myself know that when I rest my head at night I am so thankful for what I have. But that is not enough because when I rest others are still in pain.
Please be aware and vigilant. Continuously talk to our children about the true dangers that exist out there. Maria says you don't have to be gory when talking. Just talk about the facts. Things like "Stranger Danger" and how to listen to your instinct. And most of all let them have a voice.