San BernardinoAs we focus on the darkness in the human heart, we should remember how it gets there.
The Stop Abuse Campaign extends our deepest sympathies to all those effected by the San Bernadino shooting.
The San Bernardino shootings involved such a degree of violence, and so many victims, that a nation somewhat inured to mass shootings took notice. And while the predictable discussions of religious motives and gun control are circulating, details are surfacing that show some common, predictable factors played a role in this tragedy of uncommon proportions. Syed Rizwan Farook grew up in a home where his father regularly abused his mother. His father regularly threatened suicide. His father regularly yelled at, and threatened his children. And these are only the details that have entered the press. Already we know he had an Adverse Childhood score of at least three (witness to domestic violence, psychological abuse and living with a parent’s unchecked mental illness). (Read about the ACE study here) The ACE study provides a laundry list of causes and effects. Witness only domestic violence, or only one of ten other forms of trauma and you have an ACE score of one. That’s more than half of us. An ACE score of only one doubles your chances of becoming an alcoholic. A score of four makes you 1122% more likely to attempt suicide. There are many other horrifying consequences. A little known fact from the CDC is ACEs cause more cancer than cigarettes. ACEs change the way a child’s brain, immune system, endocrine system and even their DNA function. Before the ACE study, many saw childhood trauma as kids crying a little too much, something they can “just get over”. But as useful as the empirical data is, it’s important to tell the story of children growing up in a home where they are traumatized. When a child is hurt by their parent, someone who they are programed to love, they learn they are worthless. They learn the world cannot be trusted. They hurt so much they need to do something dramatic to cope. They may try to appease their abuser; adopt their attitudes and mimic their actions. They may get good at dissociating, so they can hide in their skin. They may do anything to stop feeling. Feeling is suffering. When their mother is abused the child experiences the same pain. They learn that caring is just dangerous, and causes too much pain. Most survivors unlearn some of these lessons. They go through life with assorted scars, challenges and sorrows. However if you want a plan to turn a child into a violent adult, abuse the child and then their primary attachment figure. Abundant research, including the ACE study from the CDC, proves that. We can prevent ACEs. For forty years we have known that Maternal Home Visiting programs prevent child abuse. For thirty years we have know that The Quincy Solution reduces domestic violence crime. And we know we can stop the nine out of ten sex offenders who today walk free if we fix the broken laws that today protect their freedom, not the children they abused. There are economic arguments for ACE prevention too. America spends a trillion dollars a year on the consequences of ACEs. In light of the shocking act of violence in San Bernardino, we should think about our own national empathy. Now is the time for us to make the choice abuse survivors make every day. Ignore our own pain or turn it into something positive? In the wake of this tragedy we must nurture our compassion. And the best way to do that is by protecting children.