Being a witness to violence is a disturbing experience to any individual, but can be especially traumatic to the impressionable eyes and mind of a child. It is a rising issue happening behind closed doors, but still a well-known problem. Domestic violence in the home effects the entire family, not just the adults involved. When children are exposed to the abuse of a parent, they can develop a host of mental issues as a result. Even if the abuse is not of a physical nature, the impact of verbal or emotional abuse between parents can have the same lasting effects on the mental well-being of a child.
However a lesser known, but equally as alarming issue is occurring amongst families in the home. Children are being forced to witness, or even take part in abusive acts toward their siblings. It is not uncommon for an abuser to unofficially assign different roles to different children. For whatever reason, some children are chosen to be the target, and suffer through brutal physical, verbal and even sexual abuse. Some on the other hand, may not be abused at all, but made to bear witness to the inhumane treatment of their own siblings. Lastly, there are the abuser’s accomplices. The role of accomplice is a complicated and mind bending position that weighs just as heavily on the child, if not more. Along with having to witness the horrible things that happen to their brothers or sisters, they are then made to join in on the act. A child in this position has a multitude of conflicting emotions happening at any given time. Fear, above all is the driving force behind the reluctant compliance of this chosen child. The depraved abuser gives the child a false sense of security and approval in an exchange for their obedient loyal partnership and unquestioning acceptance of their despicable behavior. In these situations the children that otherwise display no malevolence or ill-will toward their sibling, suddenly have to put aside their feelings of compassion and cruelly impose somatic chastisements on command. In severe situations, the manipulative abuser convinces the accomplice that they enjoy hurting their siblings and encourage mental abuse as well.
To the target child, the accomplice appears no different from the abuser as he or she cruelly inflicts pain onto them as instructed. It only further embeds a sense of insignificance, that not even their body belongs to them and is open to be abused by anyone and everyone. This child sadly, learns to be weary of and fear their sibling just as they do their abuser. With each assault, antipathy and deep rooted resentment toward them steadily build. Target children don’t have rights, feelings, or control over what happens to them. They are merely a vessel to withstand whatever sadistic perversions the abuser wishes to satisfy. The complete powerlessness of the target child is what fuels the sickening predator. The mental and emotional trauma that this child endures will stay with them throughout their lifetime.
On the same token however, the witness and the accomplice children are saddled with life-long mental issues as well. Theirs however is seeded from overwhelming guilt. They as children instinctively did not want to be physically hurt and therefore harbor an abhorrent feeling of gratitude for essentially being “spared”. They first feel guilt for helplessly watching as their sibling suffered. They then again for being the abuser themselves although they know that they had no choice.
Both children are clearly being abused, but worse still is the damage done to the relationship between the siblings. The devastating dynamics of this situation form an abidingly acrimonious and cynical perspective between them. For both children, simply surviving is a daily goal. Should they ever finally escape the clutches of the narcissistic abuser, they will never however, escape the memories of their brother or sister being the one on the other end.