Mar
02

The Process of Normalizing Abuse

By

Darlene Ouimet CTACC

Something happens that causes us to somehow live with abuse. Something happens either over time or because of one single trauma, that is not dealt with properly. If it is an abuse that happens in childhood, then it isn’t up to US to deal with it properly, it is up to the adults in our lives to help us deal.  There are a few things that teach us to live with being abused, and even encourage us to accept it. It could be that we are not protected from it or that it somehow gets normalized; it could be that we are convinced that we deserved it, asked for it, or liked it. It could be that we were threatened and then slowly brainwashed into believing any of the above.  Something happens that causes us to eventually accept abuse as part of life.

When I was a child, I learned through a series of behaviour modification techniques how to behave. I learned that when I was sweet natured or when I tidied my room, that I got a wonderful smile and approval from my mother. When I went to bed without a fight, there was peace. When I ate what was on my plate without complaining, I didn’t get yelled at. When I tried to skip eating the potatoes, I got forced to eat them. If I didn’t fight with my brothers, everything was fine, and if I did, I got in trouble. I learned there were different degrees of “trouble”. There was the kind that got me sent to my room and there was the kind that got me a spanking. There was also the rejection kind which I hated. My mother was proud when I was polite and courteous and smiled at people and she was displeased if I talked back. You get the picture.  This is how most of us learn which behaviours are good and which ones are bad or wrong, and most of that kind of learning isn’t the problem.

But what happens when a child lives with mixed messages about right and wrong? What happens when there is abuse which is wrongly justified? What happens in the mind of a child when something like this happens? I get this picture in my mind’s eye of a huge circuit board (the belief system) with the wires getting plugged into the wrong spots and the sparks just start flying as everything begins to break down. That is what happens to a child’s mind. That is what happened to my mind. There are mixed messages, wrong messages, lies, confusion and pain. I am told that I am imagining what happened. I am told that I am exaggerating.  Sometimes I am ignored. Other times I am made fun of. Eventually living with the mixed messages, the devaluing and being told that I am wrong becomes my normal. Eventually the abuse also becomes “normal”.

My world became familiar and even comfortable in the sense that the way things were was what I was used to. My belief system was formed, but it was full of false truth.

Any kind of abuse or devaluing behaviour can lead to leaning how to accept being treated indecently. This normalization process is not caused only from sexual or physical abuse; learning to accept abuse as deserved can happen from ANY type of abuse inflicted on a child and that will set the stage for ANY other type of abuse to be accepted later on.

Darlene Ouimet

Categories : Family

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