Towards the climax of M. Night Shyamalan’s psychological horror thriller film, Split, James McAvoy’s character takes on his last and most terrifying personality out of 23 others and transforms into “The Beast”. “The Beast” then proceeds to kill and eat all his captors but one. Casey, his remaining captor, locks herself behind bars in a last ditch attempt to protect herself. She shoots him through the bars but he is apparently unaffected and seconds later, he grabs hold of the bars, bending them apart, when finally his gaze falls upon the self-inflicted scars all over Casey’s shoulders and torso – a reminder of her disturbing childhood during which she was molested by her Uncle, who became her legal guardian when her father died.
A few scenes later, Casey is seen inside a police van after having been rescued, and being asked by a police officer if she is ready to go home to her Uncle. The scene plays out before she gives an answer and the audience is left on a cliffhanger wondering what becomes of Casey.
Switching back to real life and the unpleasant reality of child abuse, let us take a moment to think what it actually entails. The very thought that comes to mind is of a news bulletin reporting a case of child abuse along with the image of a child – bruised, beaten and bloodied and the convicted receiving just sentences for their crimes. But what the news bulletin fails to report is the victim’s life after enduring a history of abuse, whether, physical, sexual or of a psychological nature. It fails in its entirety to mention the impact of abuse on the victim and its lifelong effects. To break down and analyze this facet of the reality is a whole new viewpoint and rarely spoken of and therefore, often ignored.
In some cases, similar to Casey’s, it can result in the victim causing self-harm or the victim to develop suicidal tendencies. In others, it can result in the victim becoming a recluse, pertaining to isolation from society, from any means of contact and interaction with people in general and withdrawing within their own selves. It is known and proven for a fact through pioneered researches in sociology that ‘man is a social animal’ and cannot survive for long without interacting in some way. And thus, whenever these victims do try to communicate it is difficult to apprehend their actual emotions and decipher their behavioral traits. One may ask why that is so. It is because they have built a very carefully designed mask or a barricade. They hide behind these personal prisons to protect themselves from the world which is a result of the trauma of the abuse and has led to them distrusting people.
Another type of scenario would be where the abused becomes the offender. This is a result of the individual having witnessed nothing but abuse in his or her entire childhood and is likely to do the same to his or her children. A traumatic past can have lifelong effects on individuals, where they may become disturbing elements to an otherwise peaceful society, like criminals, drug addicts, or terrorists. All this paints a rather grim picture of a dystopian world created by this vicious cycle of endless abuse.
In a real life scenario and a harrowing tale, a mother hit her own 3-year old daughter with a hot spoon because she was unable to control her bowel movement. The father reported the crime to the police but they were unable to make any arrest since the mother had absconded. When cases like these are reported in the media, it leaves the people to wonder what became of either the mother and the child. Did the child get proper counselling afterwards, or was she left to go on about her life as if nothing had happened? Were the police finally able to catch the mother who did such a heinous crime? More often than not, these questions are left unanswered, and hence, are soon forgotten in the dirty pile of old newspapers.
Just as merely being aware of statistics and numbers isn’t enough, to know the effect of those statistics and numbers on lives is another story altogether; similarly putting appropriate focus on the victim’s life after he or she has been rescued is absolutely imperative. Providing them with counselling, psychological treatment and enhancing the victim’s coping mechanisms is essential to overcome abuse and ensure the whole process of rescue and recovery is being taken care of rather than just brushing it off as a news bulletin.