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Mon, May 25

Guest column: A vicious cycle ­ substance and child abuse

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? When it comes to linking substance abuse and child abuse, it's hard to say. The Child Welfare League of America recently reported that substance abuse is present in 40-80 percent of families in which children are abuse victims. In other words, families in which there is substance abuse are more likely to experience abuse and are at a higher risk of abuse than families with no substance abuse present in the home. On the flip side, the National Institute on Drug Abuse found children who have suffered child abuse experience a wide rage of dysfunctional behaviors that include substance abuse in later life. This is not to say that all abused children use alcohol or other drugs to cope with life, but the indications are that many will dull the pain of early childhood abuse with some kind of drug.

The month of April is Alcohol Awareness Month. It is also Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Williams Alliance Against Drug Abuse and the Williams Child Abuse Prevention Council are partnering to promote awareness of both issues and the link between the two.

Child abuse takes many forms. Many of us think of physical or sexual abuse when we think of child abuse. Both of these types of abuse have serious impacts on the social and emotional development of children, many who suffer in silence. Less known or understood is verbal or emotional abuse. Jane (not her real name), recently shared how her mother taunted her, belittled her and shamed her. She was never able to please her mother, no matter how hard she tried. It didn't help that Jane was the only child in the family targeted for this type of abuse. The other children were praised for their abilities and other attributes. Needless to say, Jane has struggled all her life with self-worth issues. Emotional abuse is often present in homes with alcohol and drug abuse issues. Rage and the inability of the alcoholic or drug addict to regulate their own behavior, much less, provide nurturing and guidance to their children, are causes for abuse and neglect.

Help is just a phone call away. Contact your local police if you suspect child abuse. If you or a family member need or want help with excessive alcohol us or drug abuse, contact the Williams Medical Center, the Guidance Center or local AA/NA chapters. Brad Massey, Williams Community Prevention Coordinator is also available at 635-9645 to discuss local recovery resources.

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