How abused children become neglectful parents

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Child abuse and neglect often happen in secret. The impact can last a lifetime.

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Judy Lightfoot grew up with an abusive mother and a neglectful father. The only place she felt safe was at school, where she excelled. Small wonder she went on to become a teacher.

None of Judy's teachers knew about her home life. "There's so much abuse that goes on behind closed doors that the community just doesn't see if the family's isolated," she said. "And my family was."

Judy shared her personal story with me, radio host Katy Sewall. Together we explored how her troubled childhood unconsciously shaped her ideas about parenting and her relationship with her own children when they were young.

"I withdrew from my kids," Judy told me. "I withdrew from them emotionally. All the things you're supposed to do with a baby, like go 'oh you're so beautiful, you're so cute,' I couldn't do. I just couldn't do it, because for me to be that open with a child meant putting that child in terrible danger."


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About the Authors & Contributors

Katy Sewall

Katy Sewall

Katy Sewall is a journalist, radio host and podcast consultant. For nine years, she was Lead Producer (and occasional host) of KUOW's "Weekday" with Steve Scher. She has also worked with "RadioLab" and "A Prairie Home Companion." She currently produces and co-hosts the popular podcast "The Bittersweet Life" found on iTunes, Sticher, etc., and at