Effects of Physical, Emotional Abuse Can Linger Long into Adulthood

Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:00am EST

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Effects of Physical, Emotional Abuse Can Linger Long into Adulthood

Amid a national debate about corporal punishment and child abuse set off by a sensational video posted on the Internet, therapist and author Dr. Gregory Jantz reminds families that child abuse of all kinds – physical and emotional – leaves lasting scars that can affect victims throughout their adult lives.

A 23-year-old Texas woman, Hillary Adams, posted hidden-camera footage on YouTube that shows her father punishing her by hitting her with a belt during a seven-minute ordeal that took place in 2004, when she was 16. The video has been viewed well over 6 million times in just three weeks and led several national news and talk shows to interview Adams recently.

Although the video has sparked discussion about the appropriateness of corporal punishment for teens and children, and about what differentiates legitimate punishment from physical abuse, Dr. Jantz says much of the reaction to the video ignores the fact that it unquestionably documents verbal abuse, which is a form of emotional abuse and can be just as damaging as other forms of abuse.

In the video, Adams’s father screams and swears at her as he strikes her repeatedly with the belt.

“Emotional and verbal abuse denigrate their target’s personhood,” says Dr. Jantz. “A parent who abuses a child this way is attacking him or her as a person, calling into question the child’s worth and value.”

Dr. Jantz says that emotional abuse and physical abuse reinforce each other, and that the combination can be even more damaging to a child’s well-being than either form of abuse alone.

Many adults who seek counseling for a variety of psychological disorders and even physical symptoms suffered abuse as children. Studies have shown that an abused child stands a greatly increased risk of growing into an adult who must contend with one or more psychological problems such as severe anxiety, clinical depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Jantz is founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources in Edmonds, Wash., which offers whole-person treatment for those facing major life challenges. Dr. Jantz is the author of many books including Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse and his latest title for parents of adolescents called The Stranger in Your House.

The Center for Counseling & Health Resources
Ann McMurray, 888-771-5166
AnnM@aplaceofhope.com