When I Realized My Parents Taught Me to Be A Battered Spouse

CW: child physical abuse, adult domestic violence

I have heard people criticize victims of abuse because they didn’t report the abuser to their school counselor or teacher, because they didn’t ask for help, because they didn’t tell their doctor or call the police. I have heard people criticize different Dugger women for standing by their spouse, for protecting their son over their daughter, for being defensive about the accusations of all the kinds of abuse, neglect, and sexual perversion happening in their family’s households despite the evidence and I have found it challenging because I’ve been the victim of the kinds of crimes Josh Dugger perpetuated against his sisters and I’ve also been the devoted wife defending her dirtbag husband because she thinks it is what god wants from her ~ both side are f*cking horrible to live through but because of them I do understand something that so many people who talk about that stuff do not get because over and over I have heard people make the judgment that it is a victim’s fault for staying in an abusive situation but the people that say those things are making an assumption that the victim even knows they are being abused.

The truth is they don’t know they’re being abused. They don’t know.

I was talking to a friend of mine a couple years ago about a guy she was dating and she had been telling me that he had had an abusive childhood and she was unloading some of the stories he had told her that horrified her because she couldn’t process them. She said that his parents used to beat his body with a stick and when she said it I was immediately someplace else…

I was 12 years old and in 6th grade.

I had been wearing a bra for 3 years already.

I had had pubic hair for about 2 years and already had a regular period too.

To this day, I have no idea what I had done wrong, but my father ordered me to strip naked and he beat me with a full, adult sized riding crop on my naked body.

It wasn’t until my friend told me in horror of her boyfriend having been beaten as a child that I realized that it was not normal for children to be hit with an object like that, not normal for pubescent tweenagers to have to strip in front of their parents, and not normal for children to be beaten until they had welts. It didn’t matter to my parents how much I hurt, how embarrassed I was, how gross and humiliating it felt, all that mattered to my parents was that I was punished. That moment when I was 40 years old was the moment I finally understood something that after almost 3 years of therapy for being a battered wife had evaded me.

That’s abusive? That’s abusive. That’s horrifying. But… that’s what my parents did.

My parents abused me?! My parents abused me!

When I had ran away from my abusive husband, I knew he was abusive but I didn’t really understand it or know how to explain it. I had been in therapy for several months before I was able to actually say it and mean it and sort of understand it that I was a battered spouse and my husband was abusive. It wasn’t even until after I had started having flashbacks to a really bad rape that I was able to see it and even now I will still have flashbacks to moments and things that happened that were horrifying. It took years to peel back the bitter layers of that onion and I’m still peeling but unless a person KNOWS they are being abused and unless they know how to name it, they don’t know.

I learned about financial abuse from an ad on Instagram from State Farm about it. I cried. I learned about marital rape when I was told that I did have the right to give or deny consent to sex EVERY SINGLE TIME I had sex even if I was married even though there are states in the US that have laws that say otherwise and even though the Christian church had taught me that I didn’t. I learned about abusive sexual contact and sexual coercion when I reported my batterer to the authorities and they called what happened those words. But what always confused me was why I couldn’t see it before it turned as bad as it did and why I married an abuser in the first place.

My parents taught me how to be abused because my parents abused me first.

They were my gateway drug to abuse.

The day my friend told me that story and the aftermath of it for him was the day I realized my parents had been horribly abusive to me too and that was also the day I realized that if I had been abused as a child and thought it was normal, of course I would think abusive behavior in an adult relationship was also normal…

And acceptable…

And to be expected…

And to be overlooked.

It was normal to be emotionally neglected, it was normal to have my feelings dismissed, it was normal to be expected to not have or share emotions, it was normal to be sexually abused and sexualized, it was normal to have my health and wellness dismissed and ignored, it was normal to protect the abusers and lie to authorities to keep the abusers from facing justice, it was normal. Normal when I was a child and normal as an adult.

I couldn’t have known it wasn’t actually normal until I was out of both the relationship with my childhood abusers and the relationship with my batterer spouse and in therapy to address things. It is so hard for people who have not been abused to understand how it works so they best way I can describe it is this:

It is as if I was raised in a cult and brainwashed from the time I was an infant and I couldn’t know anything different until I was no longer being abused by anyone.

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