Topics > Child Abuse > Overview
Unwanted or Abusive Childhood Experiences
If you need immediate information you can call one of these 24-hour toll-free hotlines.
- Rape Abuse & Incest National Network
- Childhelp USA
- National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline
There is a lot of breadth and depth here, both in the scope of information provided and the complexities and subtleties that I sometimes address.
Whoever you are, wherever you’re coming from and whatever you need, I hope you find some helpful information here, maybe even some healing knowledge, insights, encouragement and support. (Other areas of my site also have resources for those struggling with effects of harmful childhood experiences.)
Largest section, lots of breadth and depth
Before you dig in, it might be helpful to reflect briefly on language and words – both mine and yours…
Thoughts on Language and Words
The words ‘abuse’ and ‘child abuse’ tend to evoke strong feelings and disturbing images. To say (or just think) that we’ve experienced ‘child abuse’ is to say something about ourselves – and the other person or people involved – that may not feel comfortable to us, or even true.
Also, putting such a label on our experience can imply that the labels ‘abuse victim’ or ‘abuse survivor’ apply to us, and that ‘child abuser’ applies to others involved. Again, that may not feel right or true.
Even if an experience fits a legal definition or a therapist’s definition of ‘child abuse,’ that doesn’t mean you have to (or should) see it that way. That doesn’t mean you must use such words to understand what happened. What other people think or say shouldn’t determine what it means for you, or the other people involved – who may be people you still care about, even love. I understand.
‘Abuse,’ ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ just don’t feel right to some people
That’s why I’m careful about the words I use. I want everyone who visits this website to feel as comfortable as possible using their own words to understand themselves, while still benefiting from the information and insights I have to offer.
I do need to use some words, of course. These days many people use ‘child abuse,’ ‘sexual abuse,’ ‘physical abuse’ and ‘emotional abuse’ to label and make sense of such experiences. To these I’ve added ‘unwanted or abusive childhood sexual experiences’ and phrases like ‘harmful childhood experiences.’
When it comes to fitting things on website menus, and some page titles, I’m stuck with ‘abuse’ because the alternatives are simply too long. But on the pages themselves I try to avoid the word ‘abuse,’ especially as a one-word label, because I know it doesn’t feel right to some people.
Finally, I almost never use the words ‘victim’ or ‘survivor,’ because I know from years of experience that many people do not see themselves that way and don’t want others putting that label on them (even implicitly, by using it to describe others who’ve had similar experiences).
See Sorting It Out for Yourself for a more in-depth discussion of language and labels, focused on childhood sexual experiences. There I provide encouragement and tools for finding one’s own words to label and sort out the meaning and effects of such experiences in one’s life.