“The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are heaven’s lieutenants.” These are the words of William Shakespeare.
I largely agree with Shakespeare. Parents are very important to their children and most of what they say to these children will be seen as the gospel truth. But what if they are the gods of wrath and lieutenants of doom? Parents are human, and in moments of anger they might say ugly things to their children, but there is definitely a problem when it becomes a norm.
In our African culture, there is no place to claim that you have been abused by your parents. It is considered discipline. I think we might have to rethink this kind of rigid thinking. So many times, serving as a peer counselor throughout my campus life, I remember working towards healing from emotional, verbal and mental abuse from parents; with multiple clients. Having lived through it myself, sometimes I could not be of much help to my clients as I emotionally identified with their struggle. I had to refer them to more qualified counselors.
A lot of times, when people say they were or are being abused by their parents, they are told they are overly sensitive millennials who are just trying to attract curses from said parents. With this kind of victim blaming, so much self doubt is planted inside them that they think it is in fact their fault and they actually deserve to go through hell in the hands of their own parents.
Another thing I’ve heard being said is, “They are still your parents, you owe them your life.” I am always left wondering, do we, do we really? A few weeks ago, a young woman in this same forum wrote an article titled, “You do not owe your parents anything!” It was met with, I’d say, fear. Nobody wanted to talk about it. To me, that kind of fear is the kind that takes years to cultivate. When your parents tell you how better their lives would be if they did not have to spend on your expensive education, how their bodies would be leaner if they did not give birth to you, how other children are better than you because they are earning much more and gifting their parents, how you are an embarrassment to them for just being you… I have to tell you, this is not normal. This is abuse.
When parents abuse their children physically and sexually, everybody talks about it. What happens to us in cases of mental, emotional and verbal abuse? Where do our voices go? It is probably because these kinds of abuse do not show. There is never evidence of abuse and anyone can get away with perpetrating it. I think this is something that perpetrators know and they use it against their victims. I can use you as an emotional punching bag all I want because even if you reported no one will believe you because I am your parent and I am supposed to love you endlessly and everything looks fine.
I have taken a lot of time to think and read about what I am now writing and I cannot go without saying this. People who survive parental abuse have it hard, especially later in life. These individuals lack what should have been basic love. For them, what should have defined what true love is, did not take place. In my experience, they will often be in abusive relationships. This is because they think that is what is normal. A lot of work has to be put into knowing what true love looks like and defining it for themselves.
So, if you know, talk about and act on how you were or are being abused by your parent, I believe you. Please know that you are already winning because that kind of abuse takes guts to even think about.
By Njeri Muthoni, a trained DeKUT peer counsellor. If you feel you’re in need of help regarding mental and emotional abuse from parents, feel free to contact me on this number 0732346440.