Healing from child abuse takes love and care

Written by SAFE

Sometimes babies are born into traumatic situations that can permanently affect their development – but there is hope.

Sophie’s story

When Sophie was first born, her father would prevent her mother from comforting her when she cried. Given what we know, her father was most likely neglected or abused throughout his own upbringing. He was unable to allow Sophie’s mother to provide their child with the soothing, the attention, the love that she needed.

He instead chose to teach his infant that she was not safe, that she did not deserve her parents’ security and love.

Sophie’s mother, however, knew what her baby needed – and she knew they had to leave. So she tried to escape with the help of a friend when Sophie was two. Her father showed up and — in front of Sophie — killed her mother’s friend.

Kids who experience trauma or are abused at home face negative outcomes, including teen pregnancy, suicide, and substance abuse, at much higher rates than their peers. Experiencing traumatic events as a young child can actually alter their growing brains. So when kids like Sophie come to our shelters, we feel a real urgency to begin unwinding that damage.

When little Sophie came to our family shelter with her mom after the incident, she was inconsolable. Frequently throughout the day she would burst into tears and refuse to allow anyone to hold or comfort her. Any small setback could trigger a violent tantrum that might last hours.

SAFE staff began to consistently provide her attention and care, knowing that it would take some time for Sophie’s brain to understand that she was safe and loved. Sophie is now 3 and has been with SAFE for a few months – and we are starting to see some changes. Last week, after nearly a year of constant and compassionate care, a little boy grabbed the blocks that she was playing with. Sophie shrugged it off.

It was such a little thing, something that might not be a big deal for another child. But for Sophie, who experienced ongoing neglect and trauma prior to coming to SAFE, this is remarkable. It is a sign that she is starting to feel safe, that she knows there will be other blocks, other toys, other love and care to come.

Children like Sophie deserve to feel secure and loved, and SAFE is so honored to get to help kiddos like her break out of the cycle of abuse that can so easily ruin their lives.