Most people are acutely aware of the problem of child abuse in our nation. But fewer are aware of a quieter – but no less sinister – threat to families across the U.S.

Parent abuse – when a mother, father or other guardian is being harmed by a child (usually a teen) – is often kept secret. Because of the stigma attached to this phenomenon, there are few statistics or formal reports detailing the size and scope of the problem. But in families of troubled teens, this physical, mental and emotional mistreatment is often reported as a part of other behavior issues in the home.

Some families hide parental abuse out of guilt or shame, while others fear retaliation from the child for reporting the abuse. Sometimes, the parent shoulders the mistreatment in an effort to shield other more vulnerable people in the home, such as younger siblings or grandparents. They believe that by taking the abuse, they can protect others who might fall into their violent teen’s line of fire. In other instances, the parent may keep quiet simply because they fear they will be blamed or held responsible for their teen’s behavior.

Parent abuse can present itself in many forms. It can range from physical harm – kicking, punching, shoving, etc. – to the less-visible, but just as damaging psychological and verbal abuse. Name calling, belittling, manipulating and threatening a parent can be as damaging to the family as actual physical harm.

In some instances, the pattern of abuse shifts over time, and as the family dynamics change. It might start with hurtful words and verbal disrespect in the tween years, and over time, can escalate to physical violence as the child grows physically larger and stronger, or simply as they become more comfortable with mistreating their loved ones.

When it comes to parental abuse, the question of “why?” is not an easy one. Most often, the behavior is a symptom of a larger psychological or emotional problem. In some cases, the teen has learned the abuse at the hands of other adults, and is a victim of mistreatment themselves. Other teens may lash out at their mother, father or other trusted adults as a result of drug or alcohol addiction, either while they are under the influence, or as a result of withdrawals or fits of rage when they can’t secure their drug of choice.

No matter what the cause, parents should not quietly endure any kind of abuse from their child. Intervention is absolutely essential – not only for the safety of the abused parent and others in the home, but for the teen abuser, too. Intervention is critical to stop the pattern of abuse, and to prevent the teen from growing up to abuse his or her own spouse and children in the future.

Behavioral modifications, medication, counseling and programs that provide therapeutic treatment to troubled teens may all help your teen, and your family recover from parental abuse. Unfortunately answers do not come over night. Any parent suffering from parent abuse has a long road ahead of them.

Most importantly, parents must not sacrifice their own safety – or the security of other family members in the home – to protect their violent teen. Violence generally increases when left unattended. In many cases, the only recourse is to call 911 and get emergency help for your teen – and for yourself.

To learn how we can help families recover and rebuild after parental abuse or other domestic violence, contact Compass Rose Academy today.