Urban PTSD: cycle of the absentee father

Jan 25, 18 Urban PTSD: cycle of the absentee father

Urban PTSD: cycle of the absentee father

Urban PTSD. Images of war torn cities are spread across every news channel. Shredded buildings, partially submerged in sand and rubble. Images of blood streaked children, barely clothed with bare-feet. Enormous pupils inside of wide eyes set in swollen faces surrounded by matted hair. Or no hair at all.

Humans are compassionate and emotionally delicate creatures. We understand the trauma of living in such an environment. We welcome survivors into our communities and grant them political asylum. We embrace them as survivors of war escaping burned and dilapidated cities with crumbling roads. Blocks and blocks of vacant buildings. We are sadden by their daily witness to violence and death. We mourn for the child who, raised in the tradition of terror and apathy, become their father’s image.

These conditions are not much different from many American urban neighborhoods. But do we view those who have escaped, those who have survived places like Westport or Pigtown in Baltimore as refugees? As survivors of abuse? Even so, how do we distinguish between the abuser and the abused? What if the trauma blurred the lines? What about the ones who didn’t make it out? The cycle of the abused becoming abusers is not a product of fiction. It is not easily dismissed as something that happens “over there”. It is something that happens right here. It is a daily experience for some.

Absentee father

In urban settings where there is a high incarceration rate, children who witness their father’s rotation in and out of prison can view themselves as incapable of escaping the cycle of degradation. They can view themselves as unloved because their father “chose” a life of crime over raising them. He “chose” the streets over his family. They, in turn, go on to repeat what they perceived as a selfish, absentee father because “I was raised that way.” They repeat the same cycle with their own sons. They accept that the way it is, is the only way. And they too become an apathetic absentee father.

But who is the victim and who is the abuser? The absentee father? The child of the absentee father who becomes an absentee father? In the eyes of the law the answer is simple. Those who break the law are wrong. Victims of crimes don’t, and shouldn’t, have to make that distinction. But in the heart and soul of a family living in an urban setting… who is who?

Visit our Urban PTSD forum to continue the discussion.


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PTSD after active duty. A Marine’s story.

PTSD tools: PTSD Coach Online

Urban PTSD and shame. Is there a relationship?


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External Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Center for PTSD

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