Why Do We Hurt the Ones We Love?

Today I’m turning my blog over to Kassandra Lamb. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming her.

Writing and psychology, have always vied for number one on Kassandra Lamb’s Greatest Passions list. In her youth, she had to make a decision between writing and paying the bills. She was partial to heat, electricity and food, so…

Now retired from a career as a psychologist, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her always kind, generous and insightful protagonist, Kate. When not at her computer, transported in mind and spirit into Kate’s world, she lives in Florida and Maryland, with her husband and her Alaskan Husky, Amelia. She also hangs out on Twitter and Facebook.

Take it away, Kassandra


 Thanks so much, Rhonda, for letting me stop by today, and talk about some things that are very important to me, and to all of us in our society!

*yanks soapbox out from under Rhonda and climbs aboard*

You’ve recently blogged about both domestic violence and recovery from alcoholism. I’d like to expand a little on those topics. I was a psychotherapist for 20 years, specializing in trauma recovery. Most of my clients were survivors of some kind of abuse or violence; many grew up in alcoholic households, and quite a few were also in recovery from alcoholism and/or drug abuse themselves.

It’s not hard for us to imagine the immediate effects of these experiences–the battered bodies and psyches, the child hiding under his bed or holding her ears to block out the shouting, the broken promises as the addicted parent once again chooses his or her drug of choice over the needs of the family. What is more difficult to fathom are the long-term effects. Or just how pervasive these problems are in our society.

You all may be shaking your heads about now, thinking, ‘Those poor people. At least that’s only happening in a few families.’ I wish that were the case. I won’t bore you with a lot of statistics; suffice it to say that sexual abuse, the one we tend to assume is the least common of these childhood traumas, affects about 20% of children today. Yes, you heard me correctly; one in every five children experiences some kind of inappropriate sexual encounter, with an adult or much older child, before the age of 18. And we’re not talking playing doctor here; we’re talking molestation. When you include date rape by a peer, that figure jumps to 30% for girls.

Alcohol and drugs have a reciprocal relationship with child abuse and domestic violence. Alcohol alone is a contributing factor in at least 25% of abuse incidents. When someone already harbors urges toward sexual abuse or violence, the lowered inhibitions while drunk or high allows them to act on those urges.

Image by Tessy (Alcalá de Henares) at Morguefiles.com

And domestic violence and child abuse survivors are at a much higher risk for alcoholism and drug abuse (75% in some studies). They are self-medicating, trying to numb the emotional pain and cope with the depression and anxiety that are among the most common long-term effects.

About now you are probably starting to make nooses so you can lynch all those evil abusers who cause so much harm. Well, guess what? With very few exceptions, all those abusers were themselves abused children and/or witnessed domestic violence. How else did they learn those aberrant behaviors? Children from loving homes rarely grow up to have poor impulse control, lousy anger management skills and a lot of pent-up rage. Children from highly dysfunctional families may very well have all of the above.

So we have two vicious cycles interacting with each other. The child is abused (and/or witnesses domestic violence) and grows up harboring all the ingredients to become an abuser themselves. They turn to alcohol and other mind-altering drugs to self-medicate, and this reduces their inhibitions so they act on their abusive tendencies.

Now I’m most definitely not saying that all abused children grow up to be abusive. Indeed, I am amazed at how many abuse survivors, despite a whole lot of emotional scar tissue, are bound and determined to not follow in their parents’ footsteps, and a lot of them succeed in improving on their parents’ track record fairly dramatically, especially if they seek therapy as an adult. Some, however, often despite good intentions, perpetuate the cycle.

There are quite a few other long-term effects of abuse, witnessing domestic violence and/or parental addiction. The list is way too long to post here, but one of the areas that is impacted the most is relationships. Folks from these kinds of backgrounds have major trust issues. And they are often control freaks, because everything was so out of control and scary when they were kids so they have to control everything today, in order to feel secure.

The good news is that it is quite possible to recover from these issues. It often takes awhile and it can be painful at times. But so are root canals. And just like with abscessed teeth, if we ignore the infection, it tends to get worse and can go systemic, affecting more and more aspects of our lives.

So what’s the bottom line here? If we can stop child abuse and help those already abused to heal, future generations will also see a lot less spousal abuse, alcoholism and drug abuse. Below are links to just a few of the organizations that are trying to stop child abuse.

Even though I burned out after 20 years of doing trauma recovery work–it’s pretty intense as you can imagine–I’m still trying to do my part as well. I became a college professor so that I could pass the torch to the next generation of therapists. And when the writing bug–that had lain semi-dormant in my system for decades–woke up and basically took over my life, I decided to use my writing to continue this calling.

My stories (or should I say, those that my muse plants in my head and forces me to write) are not depressing, however, although they sometimes deal with some heavy issues. They are mysteries, designed to entertain with suspense, and a touch of humor to lighten the mood now and then. But wherever possible, I try to educate while I entertain.

An enlightened society is a more civilized society. I’m not sure who said that originally but I’m sure somebody did. I don’t think I just made it up. I’m not usually quite that profound.

Does any of this resonate for you, or relate to someone you know? I’ll be around all day today to answer questions, and I’ll stop back in, off and on, this week, to reply to later comments.

To lighten the mood right now, let me tell you about a contest we’re holding all this week, as I travel around the blogosphere hanging out with Rhonda and some of my other friends. Anyone who comments on this post will be entered in a drawing for a free three-book set of my Kate Huntington mystery series. And if you go to www.misteriopress.com and comment on my blog (about whether or not ghosts can get jealous; hey, we can’t be serious all the time), we’ll put your name in the hat twice. AND if you stop in and comment at one of my other blog stops this week, you get in the hat yet again! Up to six maximum entries; no wait, there’s a way to get a seventh entry in the contest but you have to go to misterio press to find out what that is.

Thanks, you all, for stopping by today and thank you again, Rhonda, for letting me borrow your soapbox!

Here are the other blog stops:

Wednesday, 6/13 – “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” – Lightening things up a bit as I talk about body image and self-esteem as the guest of Alica McKenna Johnson at    http://alicamckennajohnson.com

Thursday, 6/14 – A Check-Up From the Neck Up – Hanging out with Ginger Calem, of world-renowned Writer’s Butt Wednesdays fame, and sharing some tips for maintaining your mental health, at  http://gingercalem.wordpress.com

Friday, 6/15 – Chatting with Jennifer L. Oliver about writing, eating, and puppy dogs (no puppy dogs will be hurt in the process) at  http://www.small-escapes.com

The winner of the contest will be announced Saturday on all of these blog sites as well as my own.

Sites and Info to Prevent Child Abuse:

http://www.preventchildabuse.org  (big national conference in October in my state, Florida)

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm  (has hotline numbers for US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and international)

http://www.preventchildabuse.org/publications/parents/downloads/ten_ways_to_prevent.pdf  (list of things you can do)

Or Google ‘Stop Child Abuse’ and plug in your state to find local resources.


Thank you so much, Kassandra! What an informative post. The floor is open. If you have comments or questions, please leave them below and Kassandra will be in and out to answer them. If you’re a writer, this is a good chance to ask a trained psychologist how someone with the issues above or having come from an abusive background will behave in a certain scenario.

In the meantime, Kassandra has a new release:

Click on the image to go to Amazon. Family Fallacies is also available at Barnes & Noble. Just $0.99 until 06/30

I’m nearly finished reading the first Kate Huntington Mystery, Multiple Motives. Am loving it!


The winner of the misterio press contest for a free three-book set of Kassandra Lamb’s Kate Huntington Mystery series is Coleen Patrick! Congratulations, Coleen!

Kassandra also wanted me to pass on her appreciation to everyone who stopped by and read her interviews and posts this past week, and especially to those who contributed to some wonderful discussions.

Follow Rhonda Hopkins:

The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

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52 Responses

  1. Prudence MacLeod

    As a survivor and a writer I come at this issue from a different perspective, and yet I am using the same tools. Storytelling. As you say, my stories aren’t all doom and gloom, but I hit a few hard spots and more than a few raw nerves from time to time.
    I was not fortunate enough to get therapy, and so I bless you and all those like you who help those like me survive. Not everyone does. We do need more of you in this world, if for no other reason than you understand.
    Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing and for continuing yoyur quest to help others.

    • Kassandra Lamb

      For someone who didn’t get any therapy, you’ve survived rather well, from what I can see, Prudence. Looking forward to your next book, and yes, we need to hit the ‘hard spots’ now and again, because like it or not, this stuff is happening out there. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Prudence. From what I’ve seen, you’ve become a wonderful person in spite of your background. I’m thankful there are people like you and Kassandra spreading the message of survival through your work. Thank you for stopping by and take care!

  2. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    Thank you for enlightening me on the statistics and familial history of domestic and child abuse. My fourth novel is about a woman who divorced her cop-husband who mentally and physically abused her. An agent helped me out with a few things I got wrong, otherwise I have to admit that Lifetime movies have given me a lot of information about this terrible problem in our society.

    • Kassandra Lamb

      I’m surprised how often these days the movies portray these issues fairly accurately, although sometimes they get it wrong. I think I forgot to mention above that the vast majority of women who are trapped in abusive relationships were also abused in some way as children. It’s what they grew up with; therefore, it’s normal and they all too often think that’s all they deserve. When a woman tells me she’s had or is in an abusive romantic relationship, I think, ‘Oh, sweetie, what happened to you as a kid?’ Thanks for stopping in, Patricia, and best of luck with your novels!

  3. PJ Sharon

    Thanks for sharing your story and these important statistics. I grew up in that dysfunctional, alcoholic, abusive environment and I can say withut a doubt that without therapy, I would definitley not be the healthy, happy person I am today. It takes professional guidance, time, and a willingness to change to re-program our thought and behavior patterns. I write YA stories that cover these kinds of gritty topics so that I can share a message of hope with others that no matter how bad life gets, it can get better and that there is hope for happiness. Best of luck with your writing!

    • Kassandra Lamb

      I grew up in an abusive environment myself, PJ. I think that’s why I could relate so well to my clients and help them. Now, I’m trying to portray the disorders that result from these dysfunctional backgrounds in a way that shows the pain and confusion behind the sufferer’s symptoms. At least in most of my books. In some, I tackle other issues. Book 2 in the series focuses on ageist stereotypes.

      I really appreciate you stopping by and sharing, and I think it’s wonderful that you are tackling these issues in YA books! Young people who are going through this need to know they are not alone and there is hope.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thanks for stopping in and sharing your story, PJ. I love your books and I think they have the potential to help so many people.

  4. Tamara Ward

    Thanks for this post. It’s made me realize that I need to have another talk with my son about this issue and what to do if he’s ever in a situation where inappropriate stuff is going on.

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Most definitely, Tamara. The next generation is our greatest hope of stopping this, or at least slowing it way down. Kids need to know it’s okay to say no to an adult if they don’t like what’s going on, and it’s okay to tell somebody what happened. And most especially for boys, they need to hear that it’s never, ever their fault. Even if they went along with it at the time, or were forced and couldn’t stop it, they need to tell somebody. No one these days is going to blame them. They are just kids! Thanks for stopping by and giving me another round on the soapbox to make this important point.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Oh definitely, Tamara. I think the more aware kids are the better. They need to know how to react in bad situations and where to go for help. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Kim Griffin

    Wow ~ those statistics are staggering.

    I’ll say, from experience, that the trauma left behind simply from a loved from choosing the drink over you has long lasting and long reaching effects on a person. I can’t imagine the things that you heard and helped with over your career ~ it’s admirable what you must have done for those people, to say the least.
    Great post to bring awareness to such a painful topic, Kassandra!

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, Kim. I worked with a lot of adult children of alcoholics and addicts as well, who hadn’t suffered any overt ‘abuse’ per se, but the scar tissue was still there, sometimes going quite deep. And some folks are second generation addictive/abusive household survivors. Their parents had grown up with all that, and they hadn’t perpetrated the addiction or abuse on their kids, but they’d had lousy role models for relationships and parenting so the dysfunction lived on in more sublte ways.

      In the 1970’s and 80’s there was an awakening, if you will, in our society and these things were dragged out of the closet into the light of day. Yes, those statistics are rather appalling, and the sad news is that those figures have not gone down much since I started in practice in the early 80’s. But the good news is, those figures haven’t gone up either. And they had been; with each generation the problem had been escalating. So progress is being made.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing with us, Kim!

      • Emily Hazzard

        “And some folks are second generation addictive/abusive household survivors. Their parents had grown up with all that, and they hadn’t perpetrated the addiction or abuse on their kids, but they’d had lousy role models for relationships and parenting so the dysfunction lived on in more sublte ways.” –I had not thought of it this way. –explains much

        • Kassandra Lamb

          It really does explain a lot, Emily. After I’d been doing this work for about a decade, I came to realize that breaking the cycle of abuse/addiction was just the start. It often took a couple generations for a family to move from highly dysfunctional to relatively functional. I developed the perspective that, if we improve with each generation over what our parents did, then progress is being made. I know I was far from a perfect parent, but I did a lot better job than my parents did, and I watch my son being so very patient with his young son, and think, “Yeah, we’re getting there.”

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thanks for sharing, Kim.I worked with kids and families for 20 years and the hurt they felt as kids and even as adults went deep. It’s hard to get people in the throes of addiction to understand what they’re doing to their children. Or maybe they’re just unable to make the necessary changes regardless. But I love to see the end results when people have overcome negative situations to make good lives for themselves and their own children.

      • Kim Griffin

        Yeah, they really just don’t see it. It really is sad, but I’m glad that some children prevail regardless 🙂

    • Kassandra Lamb

      It’s actually easier for me to see the progress now, when I’m out of the trenches so to speak. Young people today are savvy enough to know this stuff is not okay and they’re getting help more readily. The whole stigma on seeking therapy is changing, slowly but surely. It’s heartening to see for sure, Kim.

      (Just caught a stinkin’ typo as I was about to hit ‘post comment.’ Almost left it in so you would feel better. They are sneaky little devils, aren’t they?)

  6. Louise Behiel

    great post ladies. WE have to start talking about these issues, so that people can heal…thanks for shining the light. You’re both awesome.

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, Louise! I admire you for tackling these tough issues again and again in your own blog. You’re pretty awesome yourself. You do a great job of explaining some really complicated disorders. Keep up the good work!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Yes we do need to talk about these issues. And I appreciate the fact that you do it so well on your blog, Louise. Even after so many years in the social work arena, I still learn so much from you. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Natalie G. Owens

    I’ve read elsewhere how 1 in 5 children are abused. That means that when we’re out and about in a crowd, chances are we see many of these innocents who are suffering mistreatment. It makes my heart so heavy to see and hear these things, but that’s the world we live in. What a great post!

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, Natalie! I have the same reaction when I meet with a new class at the beginning of each semester (I still teach part-time). I look at that room of 30 to 40 students and think about how at least 6 of them have already endured more than anyone should have to endure in one lifetime, much less in childhood and adolescence. But they’re there, smiling back at me, eager to learn and grow. The human spirit is hard to destroy! They keep me optimistic about the future.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      It is sad, Natalie, to think of so many kids being in such horrible situations. I’m glad there is help for them out there. Thank you for joining us today.

  8. KL Mullens

    Thanks, Kassandra – I grew up in a family surrounded by emotional, physical and substance abuse. Yep, you could say I am a control freak and I struggle constantly with that knowledge. I chose to break the cycle by not having kids and it’s sad to say but my generation as well as the next in my family has been all but completely destroyed by this. I am currently working on a story whose central character is trying to deal with trust issues caused by a broken childhood. Ok, honestly, ALL my stories deal with this – so I guess this is my therapy. Can’t wait to read your mystery series as I’m sure I’ll learn lots.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      I’m so sorry you had to grow up in a situation like that, KL. Thank you for taking time to share. I look forward to reading your books.

    • Kassandra Lamb

      KL, part of what I find very encouraging these days is how much these issues are being portrayed in books and movies and such. I grew up when Leave It To Beaver was prime TV and wondered why my family wasn’t like the Cleavers, as did a lot of my generation. Little did we know, probably nobody’s family was like the Cleavers. Hope you enjoy my books and best of luck with your stories! Because educating while we entertain is a great way to raise people’s consciousness about these issues.

  9. Tami Clayton

    Great post, ladies. I’ve been a child/family therapist for the past 16 years and like the two of you have seen first hand the effects of abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and substance abuse. I’m also using that background and knowledge in writing my YA novel. What never ceases to amaze me the resilience of many of the kids and adults I’ve worked with over the years.

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks for stopping by, Tami! Again I’m really pleased to see these issues being addressed in fiction, especially YA stories. If we can enlighten and empower this next generation coming up, great strides will be made to fix some of these problems.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Tami! Glad you joined in the discussion. And I’m glad to hear of someone else using their experience in books, especially YA novels to discuss the issues. You’re right. People, especially kids, are very resilient. Looking forward to reading your work.

  10. August McLaughlin

    Terrific insight here, Kassandra. My family has been deeply affected by abuse, and most of those directly impacted have gone on to thrive. It’s so important to know the dangers and statistics, and also that the horribleness can be overcome. Thanks for reminding us of that!

    Your book sounds fantastic. CONGRATS!!! 🙂

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks so much, August! One of my favorite quotes (except I can’t remember who said it; I’m really bad about that) is: Living well is the best revenge! We’ve got to deal with the anger and hurt so we can get past it and thrive, not just survive. Glad to hear you’ve had some of those kind of success stories in your family. Yes, the cycle can be broken!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      So sorry your family has been affected by these issues, August. But it’s wonderful seeing those who have not only survived but thrived despite the past. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing.

  11. Karen McFarland

    Okay, between Kassandra and Louise Behiel, there might just be some hope for us!

    Great post Kassandra! We can’t talk about this subject enough. Why? Because it’s still so prevalent! I lived with emotional abuse. The effects are similiar. It’s been a long road to emotional recovery. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be normal. But then again, what is normal anymore? LOL! It’s great that you have this background Kassandra. I can see how easily it would be to get burnout. But I’m sure that your previous work has influenced greatly your stories and the characters that live between the covers of your books.

    Thank you Rhonda for being such a gracious hostess! I wish you all the best for a successful book launch Kassandra! 🙂

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Aw shucks, Karen, thanks for your kind words and good wishes! Emotional abuse is awful too, and is the most prevalent. As I said to a client one time who was ‘only emotionally abused’ (her words), “Just because the bruises are only on the inside, doesn’t make them any less painful.”

      And you are so right. As a society, we’re still trying to figure out what normal is. But as dismal as the figures are, there is progress. My prayer is that the numbers get below 10% in my lifetime (i.e., in the next 2-3 decades). That’s still too high, but it will be better than it is now.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      There were times when I worked for CPS that I found the emotional aspect of abuse much worse than the physical. Bruises and broken bones heal. It’s the emotional scars from having someone who is supposed to love and protect you be the abuser that lingers. But fortunately there are places to get help and wonderful mental health professionals like Kassandra who put their heart into their work. You’re such a thoughtful and kind person, Karen. Definitely a survivor. Thank you for taking time to stop by today and share.

  12. Rhonda Hopkins

    Wow! What a wonderful post and such thoughtful responses. Thank you to all of you who stopped by and took time to comment. And a huge thank you to you Kassandra for being such an awesome guest today. I’m not quite finished with the first book in your Kate Huntington series and am already looking forward to the next. I wish you much success with the new release.

  13. CC MacKenzie

    Hi Guys!

    Great post! And how wonderful is this? I find all abuse be it physical or emotional really difficult to talk about. The great Louise Behiel encouraged me to talk and of course once you start …….. And I wonder if being a survivor/someone who works with people who’ve suffered, can make us better writers because we can connect with the reader? I don’t have the answer to this. But what I will say is that to actually be able to talk about it in a safe environment is a wonderful gift and that’s what you guys have done here today. If I was near I’d give you rib cracking hugs!

    Love it.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thank you, Christine! Louise is awesome, isn’t she? I love her blog. And I’m glad you liked Kassandra’s post. I think she’s pretty awesome as well. I think when you’ve been there and experienced things first hand, it has to affect your writing and hopefully will resonate with the readers. You can just feel the “truth” with some writers — if that makes any sense at all. Here’s a cyber {{{hug}}} for you. 🙂

    • Kassandra Lamb

      Ah, CC MacKenzie, here Rhonda’s trying to close up for the night and you slip past her when her back is turned. (I know CC through Facebook, guys and gals, so I can get away with being flip with her.)

      Of course, this stuff is hard to talk about. I can go on and on, blah, blah, as a professional because I’m a bit detached from it in that role. But I’m still careful about the settings where I talk about my own personal baggage. It’s definitely got to be a safe place. And I’m really glad that you felt this was a safe place for you.

      Keep on finding safe places to talk about it because that really helps, to know you’re not alone. Hugs to you, my friend, and to all the wonderful folks who shared with us today. You have warmed my heart in a big way!

      • Rhonda Hopkins

        LOL. Not trying to close up. I just wanted to make sure I got my thank you in before it got any later. This was really awesome today, Kassandra. But anyone who still wants to leave comments is welcome.

  14. Kassandra Lamb

    I think I will call it a night since it’s almost eleven in my part of the world, but if you happen to be up late reading this, feel free to leave a comment. I’ll be checking in now and again over the next few days.

    Thanks so much for having me, Rhonda! I can’t begin to tell you how much it’s meant to me to be able to connect with everyone here today. You are all awesome people and I wish you all the best in the world!

    Perhaps we’ll chat a bit more tomorrow…

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      I’m glad you enjoyed being a guest, Kassandra. I definitely enjoyed hosting you. Goodnight and sweet dreams!

  15. 5 THINGS PARENTS NEED TO KNOW | Rhonda Hopkins

    […] in the past. The first time was in 2012 to talk about alcoholism and domestic violence in the post, Why Do We Hurt The Ones We Love? The second, earlier this year, as an Authors Give Back guest giving a shoutout to one of her […]