If you have survived an abusive relationship & are working on healing from that, the possibility of someone who has been a victim siding with their abuser can seem utterly impossible to comprehend. Yet sadly it happens more often than you might think.
Many people who have been abused refuse to find some way to come to terms with it. They won’t accept that someone who was supposed to love them not only didn’t love them but actively tried to hurt them. This is particularly the case with children abused by their parents.
Being abused by a parent also can make you feel like if your own parent doesn’t love you, then clearly you must be unlovable. Children naturally seem to have a propensity for accepting blame that isn’t theirs, so when their parent doesn’t love them, they assume it’s because of something they have done wrong or there is something wrong with them. Instead, they accept this faulty belief as fact, thinking they deserve the abuse. They often grow up to say things like, “Yea, Dad was hard on me but he made a man out of me!”
Another reason victims of abuse may side with abusers is cognitive dissonance. That is the feeling that comes with learning the truth that directly clashes with some deeply held belief. Believing your parents are good people then learning they were anything but creates that painful cognitive dissonance. It makes a person question everything they thought they believed. Cognitive dissonance is truly painful, & many people would rather avoid it completely. If that means siding with their abusive parent, so be it. They prefer that to facing their pain.
Sometimes adults who survived abusive childhoods see other victims dealing with their pain. They see the suffering they go through with flashbacks, nightmares, crippling anxiety & depression, maybe even suicidal tendencies & they are afraid that if they face their pain, they will end up going through the exact same pain. Also, they may be reminded of their own pain that they refuse to face. Instead of trying to show victims they care, they rush to shut them down. One way they do this is to side with abusers & try to normalize their behavior. Not only the abusers of their fellow victims, but theirs as well.
Another reason victims may side with their abusers is to create the illusion of normalcy. If they can justify their abusive parent’s behavior, then it becomes normal, which in turn means they were treated normally & are normal people. Thinking this way makes the victims feel normal, & not like a victim or something is wrong with them. It also has another purpose. Many times, victims of child abuse marry other victims as adults. In these situations, often one person faces their pain while the other tries their best to avoid it. If the one facing their pain points out to the one who refuses to that his or her parent is abusive, that causes pain that this person has tried hard to avoid for a long time. If he or she can make the other person believe they are overreacting, over sensitive or even crazy, the abuse was totally normal, & their parent did nothing wrong, this can stop the healthier person from discussing this topic. The healthier person will get discouraged in trying to help their partner, & may give up the unhealthy person to their dysfunctional ways.
Rather than deal with painful things, it seems like many victims of abuse think that the easier alternative is to side with the abusive parent. Pretending all is fine & their abusive parent wasn’t a monster at all but instead a good parent doing their best is truly a dysfunctional coping skill! It’s a shame it’s also such a common one.
If you have someone in your life who is doing this, I know how incredibly difficult & frustrating it is. You want the best for him or her, but this person doesn’t see that. They see you as unreasonable, over sensitive, unkind, or whatever. If you are to continue this relationship, then please pray. Ask God to give you wisdom about how to handle things & pay attention to what He says. He knows this person better than you possibly could. If you feel God wants you to speak on this subject, then do so gently & humbly. Remain logical & not emotional because heated emotions only shut this type of person down. Ask logical questions too, like, “Why do you think it’s OK your father beat you with a belt? If I told you my father did it, would you still think it’s OK?”
God may also say that you shouldn’t discuss this with your loved one. Some people are extremely determined to continue in this dysfunction & nothing anyone says can get through to them. If this is your situation, then do NOT discuss it!! Have a safe place to vent your frustrations though, because you are going to need it. Pray, journal, talk to a close friend.. just don’t keep your frustrations inside. Remember, you don’t have the right to try to force something on another person, even if your intentions are good & it’s a good thing. Let God deal with this person & show them the truth. When He does it, there won’t be any doubt it’ll be done the best way possible!