The Most Painful Wound: Child Abuse and the Origins of Violence (Adult Content)

Dear readers; I must preface this post with the warning that the videos I am sharing today are very difficult to watch and not suitable for everyone. I love to write about the beauty in life, and believe strongly that we must raise up our hearts at every opportunity. However I also believe that our human shadows must not be ignored, must be faced and revealed, in order to be healed.

"Fallen Child," 1989 © Sally Mann Courtesy the artist and Edwyn Houk Gallery, New York

“Fallen Child,” 1989
© Sally Mann
Courtesy the artist and Edwyn Houk Gallery, New York

This morning as I stood on our front steps in my pajamas with the family American bulldog on a leash, she rushed barking down the stairs to challenge another dog being walked up the street. I did my best to hold on but she caught me by surprise and her strength was beyond me, so I found myself sprawled face first on the steps, attempting to cling to her leash to no avail. I am well aware that this story exemplifies the need for some prompt dog-owner training, but there is another more interesting point to share. While the two dogs circled one another I pulled myself (and my pajamas) up and rushed to the sidewalk to reclaim the leash. As I bent to pick it up, the man walking the other dog pushed me roughly to the ground. I lay there looking up at him in disbelief as he shouted at me repeatedly, “Don’t ever do that again!” and turned to stomp away. Both the bulldog and I retreated, tails between our legs. Luckily with the two falls I only sustained scrapes and bruises, but my heart hurt from the unexpected physical assault. In his fear and protectiveness for his own dog, this man struck back at me, so uncomfortable was he with his own vulnerability. I am willing to bet that his words were an echo of a command that had been leveled at him when he was the one considered to be at fault. I felt very much like a small child in kindergarten knocked over because someone perceived me as a threat. The fact that I was trying hard to do my best made no difference. When fear rises, understanding and compassion can so quickly become blacked out by blinding rage.

The incident left the little child in me feeling a bit fragile, and the adult woman deeply considering the impulse toward violence in our human lives. I had come across some of the videos below earlier in the week and made the decision to share them here, despite how uncomfortable it may be for those who see them for the first time.

These videos detail examples of child abuse, two where teachers from very different cultures and countries physically and emotionally violate their students, and the third is the story of a child bride in Afghanistan who was tortured in her in-law’s home. These are not rare instances, but rather examples of common occurrences that take place around the world every single day. A quick search on Google will turn up hundreds of these kinds of videos to choose from. And of course, these are the rare ones caught on camera. Most of this kind of violence goes on unseen by anyone except the victim and persecutor. Let us look at these examples.

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Palestinian teacher

The first video shows a male Muslim teacher systematically beating his very young students as they show him their completed work, while two women look on helplessly. The information on the original video suggests this took place in Palestine. He is not selective; the only child who escapes is one boy at the very end – we have to assume he is either a favorite or perhaps the man’s own son. It seems that he is more aggressive with the girls, especially any child who shows resistance or fear. One has the sense that he is looking for complete acceptance of his behavior, validation that the children need to be broken and wounded, and to be submissive to the assault. These are of course the actions of a bully, an essentially powerless and unconscious man.

Life is already unimaginably difficult for Palestinian children. In addition to surviving the trauma and loss of war, children as young as 12 may be arrested for throwing stones and under Israeli law, sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment where beatings and solitary confinement are commonplace. Then there is the Hamas indoctrination of children to hate Jews and aspire to martyrdom. Children are known to be used as human shields by Hamas, and forced to open suspected bombs for Israeli soldiers. Of course Israeli children are also deeply marked by this heart-breaking and endless war.

Such abusive treatment is not a symptom of any particular political conflict. When I traveled to Uganda more than once I witnessed children forced to crouch in uncomfortable postures outside of their school rooms as a disciplinary measure, while in India it is said that teachers use electric shocks.

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In China corporal punishment in schools is a traditional and accepted practice. Some programs such as gymnastics incorporate exercises which amount to physical torture for the children. They are separated from their families and submitted to dangerous and painful training in order to aspire to Olympic level results. In this video we witness the physical and psychological abuse of young girls learning a traditional folk dance.

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In the final video we hear the story of a child bride in Afghanistan who was systematically tortured for six months, an extreme case but far from exceptional. Interestingly it was not her husband but her mother-in-law who was her persecutor, in punishment for her attempts to escape.  Women can be so thoroughly indoctrinated by their own oppression that they exact jealous torment on another who might dare to object.

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Afghan child bride

The mistreatment of children reflects one of the most dire expressions of unconsciousness on our planet today. These actions are disturbing, not only because they have been inflicted upon the innocent but because as we watch them take place we know that the trauma being experienced is the very seed of another generation of violence. We are witnessing fear recreating fear, pain projecting into more pain, darkness feeding off darkness as it steals away the light from these children’s eyes. I promise you these violent teachers knew no peace when they were children themselves.

The core issue being demonstrated here may be described as the wounded masculine, even though in two out of these three instances the perpetrators are female. When we speak of the masculine in this sense, it is the archetype, the energy of the masculine presence which is being expressed as it seeks to gain dominance and control in response to an internal fear of weakness or lack. The wounded feminine expresses through abandonment and denial of self-nourishment, whereas the wounded masculine takes the beautiful strength of masculine intent and inflicts power over others, rather than infusing empowerment as a mutual experience.  All of us embody both masculine and feminine energies, but as a species we are deeply out of balance in the way this broken masculine energy runs rampant through the hearts of men and women alike.

The teachers shown in these videos are playing out an inner rage at being denied and shamed in their own vulnerability, and so they take a bitter pleasure in crushing the potential for joy in others. The saying, misery loves company is an understated way of explaining this principle. For one who holds deep-seated self denial, blame and shame, these wounds and emotions become so toxic they take over. A wounded child grows into a wounding adult, and the cycle begins again. Virtually every parent or teacher, if they are honest, will have come face to face with this impulse in their own hearts at some point, but with cultural controls and self-discipline we can manage our own child-like rage when it is triggered. Sometimes reactive rage is made acceptable through endorsed violence such as spanking. Sometimes it leaks out in a weak moment and a wise parent apologizes and asks for forgiveness. Ideally it is expressed, released and transformed in a safe environment away from any vulnerable parties, because the adult thankfully takes charge of his or her own wounded inner child.

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The concept of punishing children to inspire academic or athletic excellence is not new, and still has a deep hold in many cultures. Most of the world still upholds educational systems derived from a fear-based, Prussian model designed to train obedient soldiers, rather than invite creative and joyful individuality. The embedded notion of competition with others is also deeply woven throughout most sport, academia and business models. I can only win if you lose.  I want my team to win because I identify with their name or geographic label (even though the players may come from an opposing country.) If my child is more successful than your child, that makes me a better parent, and better person, and eases my fear of my own worthlessness. Winning is everything. To fail is a sentence worthy of blame, shame and often carries the fragrance of sin.

The very vulnerability of children also inspires unconscious violence. Israeli soldiers are known to beat and kick Palestinian children whenever they get the chance, siphoning their cultural rage into vessels that mirror their own unconscious fear of weakness. Many species in the animal kingdom will react this way – a wounded adult or unattended baby is inspiration to attack, stirring an elemental show of dominance and survival. In Uganda the LRA kidnapped children in the tens of thousands to use as soldiers and sex slaves, using desensitizing techniques such as forcing them to kill their own parents and siblings, to remove any trace of compassion from their hearts and maximize obedience. In Egypt 90% of girl children have their genitalia mutilated with the full consent and even coercion of their own mothers and grandmothers, because the women so deeply believe that female sexual arousal is an ultimate danger, rendering a woman unmarriageable and therefore without a place in her world. Child pornography has risen to epidemic proportions worldwide as vestiges of innocence become sexualized, and human trafficking is a global horror that steals the lives of thousands of children annually in Eastern Europe alone, often sold by their own relatives and family friends.

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But we human beings, are we not a species gifted with consciousness of the Self? And does this awareness not empower us to observe what is misaligned, and in that observation, find the strength to make change? On an energetic level, fear inspires fear, and leaves us vulnerable to further attack. As we undertake the process of our own cleansing and empowerment, we rise up from this toxic vibration and learn not only how to protect ourselves but others.  Fear and love cannot co-exist in the body, and by daring to confront our fears we make way for our natural state of Love.

Even those of us who walk the earth as adults in countries where our rights are protected and we have enough to eat, we have known this suffering, we remember this pain on a cellular level from lifetimes of struggle before this one. But if we are ready, we are here to wake up, to put an end to the pain. To make conscious choices, to gain our own strength through our own inner courage, to rise up against the fear and say no more. To be wise in the face of the darkness, inspired when it seems there is no hope. To share what we have and what we know, to reach out when we see harm and lift the vulnerable to safety. To put aside our distractions and complaints, and place our intention and energy where it can truly shape our lives. To know Love, be Love and insist that Love is a stronger force than any malevolent shadows within our world.

To end on a sweet note, if you have not yet met Jessica have a peek at this final video which went viral years ago. We get to witness a moment in the growing up of a little girl, a child raised in love and freedom, fierce with the self-expression that is the right of every child, of every race, any gender and in any land.  She loves herself and everything around her, not because someone else has to lose, but because she herself is filled up with joy. Jessica is a young woman now, still making videos, but to me she remains a vibrant four year old, inspiring us through the magic of technology toward a better way to nourish our young.

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much love, Adi

Interested in learning more about Adikanda’s work?  Click HERE to request a chat by phone or online.

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