Women stand side by side looking into the sunset over the water.

Do women who are abused think it is “normal”?

I hear the theory that if a woman was abused as a child she will think abuse is “normal” when she is an adult. This idea makes me angry and here is why. If we suggest that because a woman was abused as a child, she thinks abuse is normal, we are suggesting that she does not know right from wrong and that she cannot detect abuse. We are suggesting that she has no personal, internal wisdom about what is okay and what is not okay in a relationship. This is not true; women know when something does not feel “okay”. Their intuition or “voice” tells them this. They may have learned to not listen to this voice, or that it is dangerous to act on what they know, but it is there. We want to help women to hear their voice and to trust it. If we suggest that previous abuse has destroyed her voice, we leave her feeling like she is not a whole person. Furthermore, we have removed her from being the expert on her own life and put ourselves in that position.

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  1. Hear, hear!

    While it is true that childhood abuse does shape a person’s belief systems, to say that every abused woman must have suffered childhood abuse is inaccurate. Some women can be confident and clear-thinking and STILL fall prey to abusive men. I have heard of abuse-aware therapists who fell prey. The fact that abusive men are manipulative plays a large role.

    My abusive ex’s treatment of me was not in the least familiar. However, I did learn to doubt my own gut feelings because I grew up believing that you deferred to other people. My involvement in the Christian community reinforced those sorts of thinking. So you are right, when I stopped listening to others, but started trusting and validating my own experience, things changed.

    How did that process start when it was counterintuitive? God – He very clearly stopped me in my tracks to show me what evil was. But He was also very gentle with me on this journey, mindful of the false beliefs I was carrying, and allowed me to discover the truth. Now I am amazed that so many in the church don’t get it!

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