The Adverse Childhood Effect - does it factor into why victims stay?

Tonight I was on a TED talk binge. I started off with a video about women over 50 and then three videos later I landed on the one about Adverse Childhood Traumas (ACE)  and the science behind the study.

Over the last few years, I've heard quite a bit about the ACE. Basically, it boils down to the more traumatic your childhood experienced, the more likely you will suffer health consequences later on, including and not limited to heart problems, cancers, mental health, addictions,  and/or autoimmune orders. Initially, I kidding, I knew that, I've lived that -
I've often thought most of the medical issues I have had since childhood has been the end result of cause and effect of all those years I called my dark period- my childhood.

Now, I know that the ACE scale is being utilized by many social service agencies as an intake and basis for creating a multidisciplinary approach to bring wrap-around services to children and their families in need. There's also been a push at awareness about what ACE is and how communities can help prevent future health and social issues for those with high ACE scores, as getting to that child early on with positive therapies is essential and can help to create a balance that otherwise would not be there.

Experiencing trauma creates a fight, flight, or freeze response. Every cell of your body is activated to prepare for the danger. A child cannot fight that trauma and they cannot always flee from harm coming their way, even if their body is screaming to move now. How could this not have a negative impact on future health outcomes..especially when you factor in genetic predisposition?

I also started thinking about why it is so hard for most victims to leave an abusive relationship. We know that many are in fact are survivors of trauma in their childhood, a time the body is developing and we are learning our coping mechanisms and life skills - those lessons get imprinted into our brains. And, considering that, along with knowing when as that child and that flight or freeze response was activated in their body, but they couldn't flee...even if they wanted to -the question is,  does that horrific internalized childhood battle come back? Do they, internally, and more importantly, chemically/cognitively, respond as they would as a child - freeze even though they should flee?  To me, it makes perfect sense.

Working with women healing from childhood trauma I know that when first entering the path to healing and when they start identifying emotions for what they really were/are (a path I also needed to take), they need to go back to when the initial trauma started and at the time I call "when that little girl became lost" - it is the moment they first froze rather than being able to fight or flee. Until they do this they most often can't let go to move forward....this is why moving forward without honoring their past for what it truly was, may lead them right back into harms way more times than not. They need to reprogram that motherboard we all have, our brain.

Remember the days of playing an actual record album. When you first got it and took it out of the sleeve it was all shiny and new- perfect. If you didn't take care of it and protected it, it got scratched -some of those scratches were deep and the needle would skip. After a while of listening to it and singing along you'd almost always start singing along including knowing where that skip was and automatically sing with skipping over those lyrics - you'd get so used to that scratched album that when the song came on the radio, inevitably your sing-along would still include that skip -even decades later when you hear that song, you remember that skip as you sing. 

You adapted to a way that was and it is still etched into your brain.  To me, that is what it is like for victims actively in an abusive environment, especially if they experienced childhood trauma. Telling them they skipped over a life-saving measure is not news to them, they already knew they did that....just like getting frustrated with someone who stays despite telling them to leave, usually doesn't turn out well. It will take time, patience, and a lot of support to reprogram/heal that scratch in their mind.

Well, there's my second post for the evening - you can thank Ted Talks for leading me to this one...

And now for some much-needed sleep - time to start taking care of my own, rather high ACE score -

To learn more about ACE you can visit ACEs Too High


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