Statistics show that child abuse and neglect are on the rise. Perhaps they are, or perhaps it is just that due to education about the dangers, there is an increase in the case of reported abuse.

Child abuse and neglect know no boundaries or segregation. It matters not the color, race, or age; abuse and neglect occur all over the world. The anger, frustrations and rage that can accompany behaviors that result in child abuse and neglect are often "inborn," as the cycle continues throughout the generations. One is not born with the behaviors, but rather, is born into a family suffering from abuse.

My daughter would sometimes hold her breath in angerIt is a privilege to be a parent, yet there is no official handbook given to one upon becoming a parent, as when buying an appliance. The handbook or guidelines are taught to us by our parents and learning from our life experiences. No one situation is perfect, however, some grow up in homes of love and security and stability. Others do not.

I know, because I was abusive to my daughter over twenty years ago. I raised her alone as a single parent. I recall how my daughter would sometimes hold her breath in anger (I have since read that it is usually the clever children who do this). I would get so angry, frustrated and scared, that I would slap her across the face. As if that would help? It never did. More often than not, a child will usually "pass out" on their own, without any lasting or permanent damage to themselves. The normal, biological breathing mechanism sets in very quickly.

Being alone as a single parent mother without family nearby for support were major odds against me. I loved my daughter, but I showed it in strange ways as I fought to keep custody of her. I went to court on several occasions. I attended therapy sessions for many years, at times with different therapists. I went to the day program at the psychiatric facility in town. Yet I still hurt my daughter. I loved her, but I hurt her. And not only with my hands or feet or other objects, but also by the yelling and screaming that I did which resulted in demeaning her and causing lasting, emotional scars.

I remember feeling a constant sense of rage, always just under the surface of my every waking moment. I did not know where it came from – it was just there. I wanted to be a good mother, the perfect mother. I was a mother who cared how her child looked, how she performed in school.

My daughter had and has beautiful hair which I brushed morning and night. She was impeccably dressed and hardly ever got her clothes dirty, probably out of fear of being yelled at. Fortunately for her, it was one less thing that irritated me.

However, school was not her forte. I thought she might be hyperactive, but she was never tested. She did enjoy going to school immensely, no doubt to have a respite from me. But she was very "kinetic" and mobile in the classroom from as early as first grade. Because she was born in December, she had four years in pre-school, two of which were in kindergarten. Only years later did she tell me how in first grade she was frequently sent out of the classroom to stand in the hallway. But educationally, the teacher passed her at the end of the year. Since my daughter could read, no one suspected that she didn't understand what she was reading.

In freak-out exasperation, I would totally lose itThis learning disability was only diagnosed in ninth grade when she was in a dormitory, and was subsequently tested in preparation for the benefits of leniency for her upcoming examinations. It was only after she and I had reconciled that I was more aware of how and where to have her tested that I convinced her to be tested by a psychiatrist at a hospital. She scored 99.9% - the higher the score, the more severe the ADD.

So many times, I would watch her struggle with something for school that she just "refused" to understand she was doing wrong, even after numerous explanations and being rebuked. In freak-out exasperation, I would totally lose it and hit her. I would apologize later on, but during her bath time I would see my handprints were still there - a bold reminder to me, a visual statement.

Unfortunately, these episodes did not deter me from repeating them. Time after time, I mistreated her. I did worse than hit her. And it didn't matter if we were at home or outside or traveling on a bus. How much more public than that can you get? If I felt she was doing something wrong, I yelled at and slapped her. Thank G‑d, she was never hospitalized for anything I did. But it was so wrong. I was so wrong. And yet I felt I had no control.

When my daughter was between the ages of seven and nine, I was seeing a student social worker at the Mental Health clinic where I live. She advised me to keep a journal of when I hurt her – how I felt immediately beforehand, what she had done and what I did in response. This was a real eye-opener for me. The journal made my behavior real and tangible, and I realized I was accountable for my actions. To my regret, the journal was not a miracle-cure, and I still erred in my ways. I was just more aware of how bad a mother I was.

When my daughter was a teenager, and was in a dormitory, she became empowered by her friends and their combined forces of positive peer pressure. After some time of stewing in her anger at me, she complained to the police and filed a case against me.

She did not want to have contact with me at allThe case was brought to criminal court. My daughter was not there at any of the set court appearances. Only I was, with my lawyer. The humiliation I suffered was horrific. Yet it was probably only a minute aspect of what I had caused her growing up with me as her mother.

I was on probation and forced therapy for two years without being able to visit, see or talk to my daughter as she did not want to have contact with me at all. This situation continued for almost four years.

And then one day, shortly after I had completed my probationary period, there she was, standing in front of me in my room. We now live several hours apart yet we talk on the phone daily. Usually, she calls me.

All I ever wanted was a support group of similar parents to talk to, so as not to feel so alone in the process of raising a child by myself, or in realizing what a failure I was at being a mother. I needed to learn what it was to feel loved, cared for and nurtured - before I could successfully do the same for my daughter.

Nurturing is the basis of all interaction. Every relationship needs care and concern – a love between people, in order for there to be growth and maturation on an emotional level.

I am fortunate to receive emotional nurturing amongst many friends in my small community, in spite of my incorrect behavior towards my daughter. It has helped to heal me and effect changes in myself. It fills the lacking I still have from my childhood and surrounds me with love.

My desire is that no parent should ever reach the point I reached of being so out of control to hurt their child, and that no child should ever suffer abuse. Every child, as any other living being that G‑d created, deserves to be treated with love and respect. I look forward to the near future, when the Social Services, Mental Health systems and the Jewish educational system will help one another and work together with parents to build a better world for the children of today who will, please G‑d, become the parents of tomorrow.


Editor's Note:Below are some of the many organizations working to prevent abuse and help survivors of abuse to heal. This list was orginally compiled by Miriam Karp for a related article on abuse:

The SOVRI Helpline is an anonymous and confidential helpline staffed by trained volunteers who provide help, information, support, and referrals to survivors of abuse. We don't have caller ID. Our volunteers are trained to understand the dynamics of sexual abuse. They also have training in listening and counseling skills, emergency department protocol, legal protocol, post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse and incest, and recommending appropriate resources. Our volunteers are supervised by licensed social workers with extensive experience in dealing with these issues. SOVRI Helpline is under the auspices of Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan.

The helpline is open Monday-Thursday 9:30am-5:30pm and Friday 9:30am-1:30pm. The phone number is (212)844-1495.

Shalom Task Force Hotline provides information on rabbinic, legal and counseling services for victims of abuse in the Jewish community. (888)883-2323.

Faith Trust Institute is a clearinghouse for information on domestic violence and clergy abuse in the Jewish community. Faithtrustinstitute.org.

Jsafe: The Jewish Institute Supporting An Abuse Free Environment is an organization led by Rabbi Mark Dratch, which provides a certification program for communal institutions, publications and educational initiatives. Jsafe.org

Ohel Children's Home and Family Services of Brooklyn, NY, has therapy and treatment programs for both victims and perpetrators, sensitive to Jewish needs. (800)603-OHEL

The Awareness Center is a coalition of Jewish mental health practitioners dedicated to building awareness in the Jewish community. They also offer an extensive online collection of articles on issues affecting survivors of sexual abuse. Awarenesscenter.org

Association of Jewish Family and Children Services (AJFCA). (800)634-7346. ajfca@ajfca.org

National Center for Victims of Crime (800)FYI-CALL.

National Child Abuse Hotline (800)4-A-CHILD.

National Hotline for Victims of Sexual Assault (800)656-HOPE.

National Organization for Victim Assistance (800)TRY-NOVA.

Find Jewish resources by state at jewishwomen.org/directory/state_res.htm

Sources for internet and general safety include kidsafe.com

Much additional information is readily available online, through family service agencies, and in the library.