As mentioned in a previous post, if you had abusive parents growing up, you might have normalized or are still normalizing the abuse you faced.
This post is a continuation of the previous one. But instead, it focuses on why and how you can stop normalizing the childhood abuse you faced.
Why Child Abuse Victims Normalize Their Parent’s Abuse
To briefly recap my previous post, child abuse victims may normalize their abuse because they were convinced they deserved it, asked for it, or even liked it. They might’ve also been threatened or groomed to believe any of the above.
To learn more about the possible reasons you may normalize the abuse you faced, I suggest checking out the post itself: 12 Reasons Child Abuse Victims Normalize Their Abuse.
Ways Victims Normalize Their Abuse
There are various ways victims may normalize their abuse.
As a victim of child abuse, I admit I normalize my abuse using some of the ways listed below. And you probably do, too.
- Blaming yourself for the abuse you experienced, believing you deserved it or that it’s your fault
- Unable to see or recognize it as abuse, thinking you’re just overreacting or being too sensitive
- Claiming other people have worse or “actually” abusive parents
- Disregarding the treatment you got as abuse because it wasn’t physical
- Laughing or joking about your experiences, taking it lightly or not seriously
- Making excuses and justifying the abuser’s actions, saying things like they’re just stressed, sick, mentally ill, traumatized, or under the influence of a substance or alcohol
- Claiming other parents in your culture does the same thing, that it isn’t perceived as abuse in your culture
- Perceiving the abuse you faced as a sign of love, good intentions, or good parenting from your parents
Why We Should Stop Normalizing Our Abuse
I mentioned before that it’s okay if you normalized or are normalizing the abuse you faced. It’s actually pretty normal and it’s something that’s caused by the abuse itself.
However, once you recognize that you are/were being abused and that you’re normalizing your abuse, it’s important to try to stop it.
Here are four reasons why we should stop normalizing our abuse.
To stop reinforcing the idea that it’s okay
To “normalize” something means it’s acceptable, at least by the majority. Therefore, the biggest issue with normalizing abuse is that it spreads the idea that it’s okay, allowed, or tolerated.
Realize that you experienced abuse because it was likely normalized by your parents, relatives, and probably society. So it’s important to stop that cycle with you.
Stop normalizing abuse because abuse is not normal. Remind yourself that abuse is NOT okay.
To begin healing
To begin healing means to acknowledge that you’ve been through some sort of trauma that requires healing.
If you continue to normalize your abuse, you can’t begin healing because you don’t see the source of your trauma or issues.
Once you stop normalizing your abuse, you can start seeing it for what it is.
You’ll notice how the certain hurtful treatment you endured might’ve resulted in certain issues you may be currently struggling with in your life.
To ensure we won’t carry on the cycle of abuse
If you don’t try to stop normalizing the abuse you faced, there’s a chance you might continue that cycle of abuse with your children or in your other relationships.
Think about it this way. The reason you may normalize your abuse now is because your parents normalized it. And your parents likely normalized it because their parents did the same.
So to ensure that you won’t carry on the cycle of abuse, you need to stop normalizing the abuse you faced.
To start living a life free of abuse
To stop normalizing abuse also means you get to start living a life free of it. It means you no longer tolerate or accept abusive behavior, whether it’s from your parents or someone else.
When we normalize the abuse we face, we are including it as a part of our life and accept it as so, whether we like it or not. Normalizing abuse tells us, in a way, that we are allowed to be treated badly or perhaps even deserve to be abused.
But no one should be abused. Again, you did not deserve it.
How to Stop Normalizing Your Parent’s Abuse
Recognize the behavior and treatment as abuse
One of the first steps on how to stop normalizing your abuse is to recognize it as what it is – abuse.
This is often one of the hardest things for victims to accept because it’s hard to acknowledge that who we love and look up to is actually hurting us, whether it’s physically or emotionally.
But try to separate the actions from the person. Realize that some actions are hurtful regardless of the person’s intentions or “good” characteristics or behaviors they may display.
Even if your parent doesn’t intend to harm you or even if they’re not necessarily abusive, they can still have toxic behaviors that do hurt you.
What makes it toxic or abusive is if they don’t remain accountable, display remorse, or apologize for the hurtful behavior. Or that when they do, they make excuses. Or they hurt you again. And again.
In that case, it sounds like they’re hurting you on purpose. At that point, their intentions are irrelevant.
Remind yourself that if your parent truly cared about you, they would stop hurting you. And if they don’t, then they are being abusive.
Recognize that emotional abuse is also abuse
Some people might think that just because their parents don’t beat them, then they’re not technically abusive. But that’s simply false.
Emotional abuse can actually leave much more damaging effects on the child than physical abuse. It can leave a lot of emotional scars that continue to affect the child in their adulthood and likely the rest of their lives.
Parents might try to justify emotional abuse by claiming, “At least I don’t beat you”, “I feed you and buy you toys”, or “You’re just too sensitive”. And unfortunately, some people don’t see emotional abuse or anything non-physical as possible abuse.
But realize that if your parents insult, humiliate, invalidate, parentify, gaslight, isolate, ignore, and/or blame you for their problems, then they are emotionally abusing you.
Do not confuse the abuse with love
Victims of abuse, whether it’s from their own parents or not, might often confuse a perpetrator’s abusive behavior with love. This isn’t the victim’s fault because it’s a false belief the abuser ingrained into them.
A parent might justify their abusive behavior by claiming, “It’s because I love you”, “It’s for your own good”, and other similar phrases. Other people might also reinforce this belief by saying, “Your parent only does those things because they love you”.
But trust your own feelings.
If someone’s treatment of you makes you feel hurt, ashamed, scared, sad, upset, or angry, then that’s not love. Love is not supposed to hurt. It doesn’t matter what they say. It matters how you feel.
If someone truly loves you, they would not abuse you.
Realize that the abuse is not your fault
I’ve said it again and again and I’m not stopping: the abuse you faced is not your fault.
Thinking the abuse is your fault justifies the abuse you’re facing. It also makes it feel like you’re overreacting. But you aren’t overreacting and you’re not “too sensitive” or “too uptight”. No one should be okay with being abused.
Also, you did not deserve the abuse and you did not ask for it either. You might think it’s your fault because of the many excuses your parents probably fed you growing up. Or it might be easier to blame yourself than to accept that your parents are abusive. Whichever it is, please start recognizing that none of it was your fault.
You were just a child, helpless and programmed to obey authority. No matter how you behaved doesn’t justify the abuse you endured.
Learn more about why the abuse you faced is not your fault in this post.
Stop justifying your parents’ abusive actions
Abusive parents often make excuses to justify their own abusive behavior. But unfortunately, a lot of abuse victims also give the same excuses to justify their parents’ abusive behavior.
So to stop normalizing the abuse you faced, it’s important that you stop justifying your parents’ actions.
You can acknowledge that they have struggles, trauma, and all that. And you can acknowledge that there are good things about them. But it does not justify how they mistreat you. An explanation is NOT an excuse.
Many people have struggles, trauma, illnesses, mental conditions, and whatnot. But they don’t abuse their children or other people because of it.
Escape the abuse if possible
When you’re caught in the fog, you won’t be able to see clearly. In other words, it can be hard to stop normalizing abuse when you’re still dealing with it.
For an outsider, looking at your parents’ behavior towards you might seem like obvious abuse. But for you, you experience more from your parents than just their abuse. You see the good moments. You see moments where they seem to love you.
As mentioned in my previous post, it’s common for the abused child to have a distorted view of what’s “normal”. Even as an adult, having grown up in an abusive family and having to continue interacting with said family, it’s kind of expected for the victim to normalize the abuse.
So to be able to stop normalizing the abuse, you might have to escape the abuse. Or at least, form some distance between you and your abusive parent if you haven’t already.
Check out these posts for help:
- How to Escape Abusive Parents: A Guide for Adults
- How to Go No Contact with Abusive Parents
- How to Set Boundaries with a Narcissistic Parent
Seek professional help
A professional can help you learn to start differentiating abusive behavior from healthy ones. They can also help you stop normalizing the abuse you faced and start healing from it.
Connect with a certified therapist and access the most complete online therapy toolbox.
Start a new life free of abuse
It’s easy to fall back into what you’re comfortable with. That’s how you started normalizing your abuse to begin with.
So to ensure that you stop normalizing abuse once and for all, and for the sake of your well-being, try to start a new life free of abuse.
While you may remain in contact with your parents, it’s important to try to limit the abuse and toxicity in your life as much as you can.
You can have limited contact and/or set needed boundaries from not just your abusive parents, but with other abusive or toxic people in your life as well.
Not only is this crucial for your well-being. But it’s also important for the well-being of your loved ones like your significant other, children, and friends.
Remind yourself that you are worthy.
You deserve a life free from abuse.
Hi there, I’m Estee.
Having been raised by an abusive mother, I developed an interest in mental health to better learn, understand, and manage the effects the abuse had on me. My experiences inspired me to create Hopeful Panda.
In my free time, you’ll find me cooking, organizing, playing video games, writing, or spending time with my family. You can read more about me and my blog here.
Support Hopeful Panda
A lot of time and effort is put into this blog. If you enjoy my content or find it helpful, please consider making a donation. Thank you 🙂