Physical Abuse ~ who says when Discipline is Abusive?


My husband usually says that he was not physically abused but once in a while in the past few years he has admitted that there were a few occasions when he actually was physically abused by his father. He is willing to call what happened “abusive”.  I have always found it fascinating that he didn’t consider what happened to him as abuse prior to these last few years. The events didn’t fit with his definition of the word abuse before.

This one particular time, he “pulled a case of beer” which means that he bought a case of beer when he was underage. He went to the school dance and he drank too much and his Uncle kicked him out of the dance. When his father found out,  he literally kicked the stuffing out of him. My husband thought he deserved it. Now, depending on your own background some people can almost see why my husband thinks he deserved it, but did the punishment fit the crime? Does anyone have the right to do that to someone else? Today, we have laws about that kind of thing. I can almost guarantee that in my father in law’s mind, he thinks that it was his right as a father, to beat up his son in this way; to just hit him like that and put the boots to him. If my husband had come round the corner of the barn, and saw his father kicking his sister that way, he certainly would have considered that to be physical abuse, but in his own case he didn’t think it was really abuse.

Where the heck does this belief come from, that we actually might deserve this kind of treatment? Even more of a mystery is that when other people tell us these stories, we are outraged. We try to convince others that what happened to them was or is abuse, and yet we don’t think what happened to us was. We so often don’t validate ourselves the way that we validate other people. We don’t react to our own stories the same way we react to other peoples stories.

How did we get convinced that it was our fault, or that we deserved it? I have come to realize that this kind belief does not develop overnight, but over time. Like many of us, I was conditioned over time to accept different definitions of certain words as the truth. My husband believed that getting a beating as severe as the one he got was his deserved punishment. That was his truth.

As children we might believe that it is our always our shortcoming when our parents are disappointed in us and that becomes our truth. Along with one false definition, we develop other false definitions. It is like lying, one lie needs to be covered up with another lie and eventually we develop a definition of love that isn’t accurate, our definition of respect  is the wrong, and therefore it shouldn’t surprise us when our definition of abuse gets skewed too, but these definitions become our truth. I encourage you to think about what your truth is and where it came from. My motivation for writing this post is due to how often I hear people defending abusive parents. 

In my process of recovery, I had to learn the true truth, the real truth about myself; with help, I had to re-wire my brain as well as change my definitions of words like abuse, love and respect and I had to re-parent myself so that I could thrive in wholeness and freedom.

Darlene Ouimet

20 response to "Physical Abuse ~ who says when Discipline is Abusive?"

  1. By: Celine Posted: 9th February

    And the cycle goes on and on and on. Only for me? I turned punishments and abuse against MYSELF. Cutting became my way of crying out. Watching my blood dripping on the floor (sorry if this is too graphic) was like witnessing all the abuse coming out of me. I was bad. I needed to prove to myself how bad I was. When I was little, if my sister and I argued in the car, I would get sunddenly slapped on the face to make me stop. For what is was to me, at the time not worth getting hit for. But I took it because this was coming from my FATHER!!!! It came with NO warning. One time my sister and couldn’t sleep so we decided to draw on our bedroom’s wall. He got SO mad he hit me both a broom and even managed to break it in half. That night, I got hit with his bare hands and had his whole hand print on my bottom. But since he was still angry, his last resort to relieve it was the broom. But like many of us, it took me until I was 40 years old to realize it was abuse. In fact, when my therapist told me that’s what it was, I didn’t believe her. I was completely shocked. It took me a long time to accept it.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th February

      Hi Celine
      This is exactly what I am talking about Celine. Thanks for sharing.
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Kim M. Posted: 19th April

    Hi Darlene: I love your blog. I am struggling with foodaholism, which might as well be drug addiction because it will kill me if I do not modify my habits. I have recently “confronted” my mother and reached out to the rest of my family, who have been supportive. My mother chooses to not converse for about 4 months now. So I am struggling with grief. At the same time, I feel addressing the issues with her was necessary for my survival and the right thing to do. So I read your posts and other peoples’ comments and I know that I am not alone and I appreciate everyone’s courage to talk about their struggles. We know we have to let it out and not keep the secrets any longer. Thanks for everyones’ input and courage, it means a great deal.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 20th April

      Hi Kim M.
      I have had my struggles with foodaholism too. Another one of my coping methods. One by one I looked at them all and everyone one of them was grounded (rooted) in the same place ~ and it was in facing what I was trying to cope with (escape from) that I found the freedom I have today.
      I am glad you are here and that you like my blog!
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Kim M. Posted: 19th April

    I think Alice Miller has covered this “phenomenon” in her writings. When we are children were are economically powerless to get away; we have to live under their roof to survive. So we repress too much of it and have to keep up the denial to get what we need to live. This repression results in neuroses, disorders & health problems, narcissism and in the extreme cases creates drug addicts and murderers. We continue to seek love from our parents, because that’s what kids do; so denial can continue into mid-adulthood for most. I can’t recommend Alice Miller’s work enough. She remains a beacon for understanding how this bad treatment developed & was protected by religion … why it continues to thrive, as we fail to understand and stop the chaos which creates damaged people.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 19th April

      Hi Kim M.
      Welcome to EFB
      I love Alice Miller. I wrote this post 2 years ago and I had not heard of her or her work yet, but since then I have read 5 or 6 of her books. (other advocates kept asking me if I had studied her work)
      I think narcissism in even less extreem circumstances creates drug addicts etc. About love ~ I found that it was easier to understand my feelings for my parents when I changed my definition of love to the right one.
      Thank you for your comments.
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 1st May

    ~Just be Real.. I have such a deep passion to share the realizations I have had about HOW we did come to believe that stuff in the hopes of cracking through the fog we came to live in. Thanks for your comment!

    ~Welcome Jacki!
    I look forward to hearing more from you. There has been way too much “covered up” in the past. I am all for getting the right definitions on those words!

    Hugs and bright blessings! Darlene

  5. By: Jacki M SeiWell Posted: 1st May

    it’s good to see other people writing again about how what they called “disapline” would be abuse by standards today. look forward to reading more and sharing you blog

  6. By: Just Be Real Posted: 1st May

    Darlene, great post. Makes sense. Yeah, how on earth did we get to believing that it was our fault for being sexually violated, physically and verbally abuse. I just know the results from it all lumped together as shame. Thanks for sharing.

  7. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th April

    I knew what you meant, I just wanted to make sure that others also understood. Please don’t feel that you need to apologize! I love your comments and would never want to restrict them (or you) in any way!
    Love Darlene

  8. By: Nikki Posted: 30th April

    Primarily I was referencing when disciplining turns into abuse is what my main reference was on this… I am sorry I wasn’t very clear on that!! When we choose to allow ourselves to go further than necessary! It is a choice!

    you are right we cant truly forgive until we face it. Forgiveness is not living in denial or white washing what has been done. It is facing the reality and truth of what happened.. and then being able to let go of it. The process of it alone does bring about many emotions that has to be dealt with..

    Again I do apologize for not being clearer earlier..

  9. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th April

    Hi Nikki!

    You make great points, and please don’t feel that I am correcting you, I just want to point out a couple of things for the readers justfor the sake of clarity.

    I agree with your points here, that we can’t blame our upbringing for the way we handle ourselves as adults, as we all have choices. One of the things that is a big part of my message is to help people feel validated and even to have permission to feel angry and even to blame others for the abuse they experienced as a child, without getting into the whole forgiveness subject.

    After trying to forgive for years and secretly knowing that it wasn’t
    working and beating myself up for not being able to forgive; Forgiveness for me came way after I finally dealt with the bottom line truth of my upbringing. I had to actually get angry about the way that I was raised, take a good look at what happened, where I was right, where they were missing some key things that it takes to raise kids so that I could learn to apply those key things to my own life now, (re-parenting myself) and know what my worth was no matter what I was taught that it was before. Then I no longer had any anger, and forgiveness for the adults who harmed me, just came.

    Another thing is that although I am responsible for my actions as an adult, I felt tremendous guilt and shame and that was making me a bad parent, not that I was abusing my kids, but just that I was not an example of joyous life, good self esteem or wholeness. I also needed help to get over the past belief system that I didn’t know was there in the first place. And it was that belief system that was dragging me down so bad. Although I hold my parents accountable for their actions, I don’t feel the same blame that I felt before for MY life, and my results anymore. Those are my responsibility now.

    This is hard to explain, but that is why I have so many blog posts! LOL

    This is just my point of view with what worked for me in recovery.

    Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Nikki Posted: 30th April

    Abuse may be a learned trait then again abuse can happen anytime we allow our anger to get the better of us and the result of acting out in this anger can lead to abuse.

    To be honest I have known of people who came from a good upbringing where there wasn’t abuse involved at all yet in their own lives they have allowed their own anger to over take them and because of that allowed themselves to become abusive.

    Somethings are past on thru a faulty belief system but sometimes abuse itself can occur whether we were raised in an abusive situation or not. When it comes down to it being an abuser is a personal choice. Though many will argue that a person may not know better, i personally disagree the reason I disagree is because when we become the age of accountability for our own self then what we do or don’t do is our choice. I assure you if a person beats a child to death when that person goes to trial for such a crime, though his or her attorney may defend them by saying that they to were abused as children, yet the fact still remains a child is dead and he or she was the one who beat them to their death. Unless the defending lawyer can bring into a court something solid and concrete for their defense in other words to prove that they did not beat the child to death etc. then often times it doesn’t stand well with the jury or legal system for them to set their and say will it is part of my belief system.

    Unless the individual is mentally impaired then we all have a choice. I realize that my dad made several bad choices when it concerned disciplining me .. these choices lead him into irrational behavior which lead into abuse. I am not making excuses for my dad but at the same time I realize that often the way he responded to me was the same way his parents responded to him .. yet I can’t make that an excuse for my dad’s behavior nor my own. Why? Because we do have a choice. We may not see that we do, we may not understand that we do, but each and everyone of us has a choice.. the way to break an abusive cycle is to see it for what it is ..

    Abuse can spawn out of anger/rage, pride/humiliation, jealousy/envy and even Egotism (showing whose the boss)

    These factors doesn’t give us a right to be abusive but we should see that each of these factors is to do with our own personal self whether the belief system is warped or not. I can’t honestly say that every time my dad whipped me was because of how he was done by his parents .. each time was different for different reasons. Each generation has the responsibility to do what is right no matter who we are or what was done to us.

    My dad was in his early twenties when I was born he was old enough to know the difference. I was two years old when he back handed me the first time. Knowing what my dad went thru as a child gives me understanding to why he is the way he is but I never allow it to be his excuse! Just like I am not allowing what was done to me to be my excuse. I have lived to long under the false belief of “This is how I was raised and this is how its going to be” that is where the belief system gets warped and that is a choice when we have been shown the truth..

    I am not saying I don’t forgive my dad I am just saying we do have to be accountable for our own actions no matter what was done to us as children. Its not easy because in my own mind i think “Why do I have to take the higher road when they didn’t?” By taking the higher road and being accountable of our own choices that is when the cycle of abuse is stopped ..

    Abuse maybe handed down from generation to generation but so is the excuse …

  11. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 29th April

    I was in counseling and 12-Step programs for several years before I could call the incest rape. Rape just sounded so much worse and my idea of rape was violent and the incest wasn’t. It was done without my permission. I was never asked. If I was asked, I think that I would have said no. In my child’s mind, I silently screamed no often enough before completely tuning out and going deep inside my mind. Today I am able to say that I was raped by my uncle and my dad.

  12. By: stacy Posted: 29th April

    I can really relate to the issue of feeling like that because it was “just me” that the abuse happened to means that it was okay. I wasn’t that important.
    It wasn’t until I was a mom of a daughter the same age as I was when I was abused that I came to grips with what happened to me. Also I think when raising my own daughter has shown me how very important a person I am. I always felt that there was something about me that made me subhuman, but there really wasn’t. I’m a full blown human, with all the rights as every other. And I didn’t fully understand that until I raised my daughter.
    What I wasn’t prepared for was the overwhelming feelings of hurt and anger that came with realize I shouldn’t have been abused. Maybe the fear of those feelings were part of what was keeping me in the belief system of being a subhuman in the first place.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th April

      I totally relate to what you are saying. I wasn’t prepared for that flood of feeling either and I think for me that the fear of those feelings WERE part of the belief system I had in place that believed that I wasn’t worth it or as you say that I was a sub human. Very good points! Thanks for sharing!

      As always, thanks for your insight. I could not even comprehend the word abuse in relation to what happened to me in my life. It just felt so wrong and scary to use that word. Today I live to crack through that fog so that others can live in truth, freedom and wholeness, not to blame or live in the anger or resentment, but to live in health and confidence and to know that I am a worthwhile person.

      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th April

    Thanks Cyndi ~
    For your comments and for affirming that the process although tough, is so very worth it! I can’t say that enough, it is SO worth it!

    Cherie! Great to hear from you!
    We do get accustomed to the lifestyle we live in don’t we? Good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, abusive or loving. It becomes our normal.

    This is beautiful said. Thank you for the depth of honesty you have expressed here. My mother used the expression “I’ll give you something to cry about” and I remember thinking, wow, why does she think I am crying for no reason, she just gave me the strap. What a mess that we have to recover from!
    I really appreciate you posting the way that you have here.

    Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: Angelina Posted: 29th April

    Arm broken? Your fault for something. Belt? Your fault for something else. Abuse? Nope you are a child and therefore property and if you tell anyone you are gonna get it…crying? I’ll give you something to cry about. Foot falls on stairs, closer to my room. Whisper of belt leaving loops, snap as the sides meet sharply, the turn of the door knob…will it stop there or go further? Is the torture of waiting worse than the blow? Is the ever present fear worse than the moments of agony? “Oh we are just strict disciplinarians…” and then years later, “You need to be better at making him fear you, or he’ll just run over you like a truck.” Fear me? FEAR ME? Respect, yes. Honour, yes. Fear, NO! Resounding, emphatically NO! I don’t respect you for the fear you gave me…I just flinch less because I’m older.

  15. By: Cherie LaLanne Posted: 29th April

    You nailed it, Darlene, with your comment about rewiring our brain. When we grow up with these parental behaviors, our programming does not realize they are wrong. We justify the behaviors because we want the love of the parent. We do not want to deny their love for us as children, and even as adults. I recall saying to my friends when I knew I was about to get caught at something, “I’m going to get the s*** knocked out of me.” I accepted it. It was the form of my mother’s discipline. There was so much violence around me, I believed it to be a normal way of life. I am happy to hear your husband has come to realize the wrong in getting the stuffing kicked out of him. I am also grateful the Lord has shown me how to forgive my parents for their abuse toward me, otherwise I’d probably kill someone or myself. That is how toxic unforgiveness can be.

  16. By: Cyndi Posted: 29th April

    Excellent post. Most victims of childhood abuse do not realize they were abused, except in the most extreme cases, and even then, sometimes they don’t realize it. We come to believe we deserve this because as children we believe our parents are all-knowing. Combined with actual wrong-doing (in this case underage drinking) it is very easy for the child to believe he deserved the beating because he did break the rules. The reality is that our parents are flawed human beings just like we are. But when the ideas that we were bad and deserved abuse are ingrained from such a young age, those beliefs are rarely questioned, they are just part of our “truth”. We all have to what you have done, re-parent ourselves and re-wire our brains. It’s a long tough process but so very worth it.

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