Abusers are well known for making excuses for their actions. It usually comes down to blaming other people or situations and not accepting responsibility for themselves. But in regards to familial abuse, it can be even more detrimental when family members make excuses for the abusers to the victims. What may seem like a way to ease family tension can create negative emotional effects for survivors in the short and long term. This article focuses on domestic violence. The reasons given for sexual abuse is a subject that deserves to be addressed separately.
Some reasons that family members give for the abusers include:
- They were victims of abuse too.
- They were in a war.
- They have an addiction.
- They're mentally ill.
- They're having relationship, financial or work difficulties.
By saying something like "daddy was hit by his dad and that's why he hit us" only plants the seed in the minds of children that they too have no choice but to turn out like dad or be a victim like mom. While this is a generalization and not every child will become one of two extremes, there are other possible effects including relationship and emotional problems.
When talking to a child about the abuse they've suffered and witnessed, there needs to be a balance between compassion and righteous anger as well as between explanations and excuses. A child shouldn't be made to feel that he owes his abuser understanding.
Unfortunately, anger is a dirty word in some circles. I'm not suggesting that parents don't teach their children about compassion and forgiveness if that is their choice, but there is a time for everything. Children need to acknowledge just how upset they are before they can forgive anything, and this process may have to happen more than once depending on how young they were when the abuse first took place.
All of the reasons above can indeed cause someone to act out violently, but it needs to be made clear that the person chose the wrong way to vent their frustrations. Even if the adult never learned coping mechanisms before, it is on their shoulders to do so now. The concept of taking responsibility needs to be introduced to children when they're young, especially when harming another person is concerned. Consider becoming the change you want to happen in your family and your child will take that strength of character with them into adulthood.