|“||You're the one that I don't want! You think I'm going to pity you if you cry? I don't care if you disappeared off the face of the Earth.||”|
Child Abuse describes a broad and deep variety of wrongs committed against children, and is most often defined as "any act, or failure to act, by a parent or caregiver that results in actual or potential harm to a child." This category includes all forms of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse and neglect, and such abuse often results in the physical, mental, and emotional trauma of its victims. The world of Elfen Lied is, sadly, not different from our own in that it possesses many examples of these crimes, and at least three will be focused on here.
Lucy's circumstances were incredibly harsh, something both the Manga and the Anime, as the main character of both, go into great depth. In her case, parental abandonment was not merely a fear, but a reality. In the local orphanage, she faced multiple levels of pain and alienation. From the start, she was told flatly of her abandonment in the woods by her parents as an infant. This knowledge, in turn, engenders harsh questions that led to some level of self-loathing (and a deep resentment towards the parents that had seemingly abandoned her without a second thought, at some point mentioning once having expressed murderous intent towards them). The instructors and guardians in charge of her welfare barely concealed their loathing and contempt for her due to her horns. The other children likely took the adults' indifference toward her as a cue to be ever more merciless and unrelenting in their attacks. As a defense, Lucy shut down her emotions, only for the vicious Tomoo to regard this as a challenge to overcome. By the time her murderous side (or instincts) fully surfaced, she had fully realized the last stage of an abused child's disconnect: Now, in her eyes, she was a 'real person,' whereas almost no one else was. Life had become a place of harsh transactions, where lessons had to be taught swiftly, merely to survive. This grim outlook culminated when, believing herself to be betrayed by Kouta, she murdered his family to punish him and to prove herself a force to be reckoned. What seemed transactional to her was instead horrifying and sickening to Kouta, a dichotomy she could not bear, and she fled the scene to sort out the repercussions of what she'd done on her own. As was later seen, Lucy's tolerance for abusive types remained low.
It is not known at what point Mayu's mother in essence disconnected from concerns about her daughter, but it can be said that the abuse begins there. Mayu does not mention the fate of her true father, whether he left or died, and she seemed genuinely shocked by the coldness her mother showed, once she told what her stepfather was doing. It can be speculated that, whether or not Mayu's father abandoned them or died, her mother chose to treat it as abandonment, indicating a narcissistic personality that was, perhaps not even as mature as Mayu's. It seems that, while dating, the future stepfather made certain to pay the mother enough attention to allow her to delude herself into believing she had his affections. It also seems unlikely that Mayu was his first victim since he seemed practiced at hiding what he was doing to her; given Mayu's household skills, it seems sadly likely that she was forced to clean up any evidence of his assaults upon her. It can be speculated that Mayu knew her mother was not the warmest of individuals, but still expected a more protective reaction when she told her of how her stepfather had raped her. With any semblance of the familial bond dissolved, Mayu still chose to stay for a short time after her confrontation with her mother, partly out of having nowhere to go. Even in her self-interested lock-out of her child, one wonders why the mother did not at least call the stepfather out and demand that he 'pay attention' to her once again. Mayu's narrative seems to indicate a quick progression from this last confrontation with her mother to her stepfather's last attempt against her, but the story is unclear on how quick this was. Mayu's final departure was a fight-or-flight survival defense, literally running off half-dressed and never looking back. On some level, perhaps she feared a more planned departure being interdicted, either by an argument from her mother or being actively stopped by her stepfather. It is not known why the stepfather did not try to pursue or retrieve Mayu since she was an easy target, and likely the reason for his marriage to the mother in the first place, at least in part. It is also not known if their marriage still stood when Kouta and Yuka contacted the mother about taking custody of Mayu. Either possibility exists: either the marriage was dissolved when the stepfather's target was gone, or the mother retained hopes of gaining back his interest once Mayu was assured of never returning. The pair were never seen again after the custody transfer. Unlike the Diclonius girls living in Maple House, Mayu never bothered to maintain a low profile, so it is most likely her stepfather gave up on her once she was no longer within his clutches. No evidence exists to provide any fate for Mayu's parents.
For her part, Mayu continued to show signs of her abuse, disrupting most notably her relationship with Kouta. One of Nyu's antics early on soured her trust and even made her a bit more wary of Yuka. Even after she more firmly learned of Nyu's behavior, she was said by Nana not to be 'good with guys,' which some readers have interpreted as affecting her sexual preference, though she seemed to have a crush on Bando, part of an emotional gamble to see if people could be trusted. In an odd way, her later chastising of Kouta for his handling of Nana's arrival and Yuka's affection could be seen as his once again having her trust. In many manga and anime, and to an extent in the real Japan, a sage daughter might so task a loving but clueless father. Needless to say, on its worst day, Mayu's relationship with Kouta is more parental and affectionate than the best day of her time with her stepfather. Another level of building back her trust occurs with Yuka, a mother figure, and Nyu and Nana as well as Nozomi, surrogate sisters with some baggage of their own.
In the anime, Mayu's recovery is taken one step further as she openly refers to Yuka and Kouta as the Mama and Papa of the Maple House.
Although Nozomi's father could be said to have the least malicious intent of any abuser in the series, he still physically abused his child enough to cause her to lose control of her bodily functions. He also viciously destroyed gifts she made for him and struck down any chances for her to stand up for herself. Unlike Lucy or Mayu, Nozomi does not have the strength or savvy to wear a public mask, and largely is the very shy person she appears to be. More, at some point, her father seems to have become aware of the lines he crossed in his efforts to protect her, and even to feel some shame about it. Nozomi's father firmly believed he was protecting his daughter's interest by frustrating her dream of singing, armed as he was with secret knowledge about how this might affect her mental and physical health. Without the knowledge of her mother's downfall, his intentions backfired horribly. Nozomi could not reason out the whys and wherefores of her father's punishments and grew both weak-willed and nervous. While parent and child have begun to reconcile, like Mayu before her, Nozomi seems to have sought out Kouta and Yuka's house as a haven, with Kouta as the secret-keeper and encouragement that Nozomi's father felt his concerns precluded him from being.
Aiko Takada was caught up in multiple levels of abuse and neglect, so much so that even Lucy, who before had only considered her troubles in the world, resolved to change her life for her. While her mother cared for her, her abandonment left Aiko in the hands of the same father that may in part have driven her to leave. Under his charge, Aiko was neglected and abused, with her father even demanding she prostitute herself to bring in money. In this wholly loveless atmosphere that may have also included her father blaming the child for his wife's departure, Aiko began to see herself as weak. Even though logic would tell most that standing up to her father would likely only provoke an even more violent reaction, Aiko came to berate herself for not doing this. Watching Lucy from her apartment window, she became fascinated and perhaps enamored of the girl who seemed so much like her. Though Lucy is a killer to those who get in her way, her tragic experience with Kouta's family caused her to relent on killing, first the abusive father, and later his girlfriend, who told the police the two girls were killers. It is unclear whether Aiko's story of her father's accidental, rage-induced death was correct, or if she finally could bear no more and chose to retaliate in that final and most dreadful way for all the abuse she had suffered.
|“||I've made up my mind. I'm going to live my life!||”|
–Nozomi, engaging in the only productive revenge for an abused child