- Case Example
Sandy was 10 years old when her teacher became concerned about possible abuse. She was extremely shy and withdrawn and often took a great deal of time to grasp ideas, despite the fact that testing showed no significant organic or perceptual difficulties. Her mother, a professional artist who had chosen to stay home with her four children, and her father, an accountant, found Sandy's slowness especially distressing.
As the homework required of Sandy increased, she became more withdrawn. The teacher suggested she ask for help at home, especially with her math. At first Sandy began coming to school with peculiar marks on her hands and arms. On another day she arrived with a burn mark covering a good part of her hand. It had not been treated and had become infected. In asking Sandy about her injuries, the teacher learned that Sandy was being abused by her father. After several drinks, he would "help her" with her homework, become angered by her slowness, and prod her with his lit cigarette. The latest burn was a result of Sandy's hand being pressed on an iron when her father had taken over her mother's efforts to teach Sandy how to "iron properly."
Despite their need for help, many children and adolescents do not initially admit to being abused. Rather they often may invent seemingly plausible explanations, but the explanations tend not to fit the injury. Despite the abuse, children often are understandably fearful of being taken from their families or getting their parents into trouble. Other children also may just assume that this behavior is normal.
Sometimes, it is assumed that physical abuse does not occur typically with adolescents or that, since they often are more difficult or provocative, they "invite" abuse. After all, adolescents are stronger, have more resources, and can run away. In fact, neither resistance nor flight is a good option for most adolescents. Resistance might further ignite their parents' anger, and unless they want to deal with the harsh realities of life on the street, flight is not an option for most adolescents. In addition, since adolescents often are perceived as more capable, adults are less likely to intervene or alert them to the resources available that can address personal or family issues.
- Case Example
Dara, a ninth-grade student, began complaining to her gym teacher after a particularly intense argument with her parents. Despite her complaints, Dara insisted that her bruised face was the result of "bumping into a door." The teacher suspected otherwise because of the location of the bruise and Dara's frightened demeanor, but chose not to act. It was not until Dara began vomiting several months later and was doubled over in pain that the situation came to anyone's attention. It was discovered that Dara had internal injuries from a severe blow to the abdomen. The girl finally admitted to the teacher about months of physical abuse she received from her father.