“You are just like your father!” Unfortunately, there are no fonts that can indicate whether a statement is sarcastic (please create that someone!), excited, critical or shocked – or possibly a mixture of all the above.
How did you read it? Depending on your childhood, this statement can bring pride or shame.
During a question and answer period of a recent DVSD Survivor Impact Panel, one of the audience members (a 21 year old offender of domestic violence who was in a batterer intervention program) asked the panelists (survivors of domestic violence) if they thought that there was something hereditary about domestic violence. The question was puzzling at first, and then he said it…. “I never knew my father, but my mother said that he was very abusive and whenever I acted up, she would always say ‘you are just like your father’ so, I just wonder if I ever had a chance”. One of the survivor panelists responded in such a kind manner. “Your mother should never have put his sins on you. His are his and yours are yours. You have the power to be who you want to be”.
I had seen the quote “The way we talk to our children become their inner voice” from Peggy O’Mara years ago and thought it was a good way to explain why some survivors of domestic violence felt that they were trapped in their relationships. If someone grows up being told that they do not deserve a high level of treatment, then they are more willing to accept abuse. Being raised with the burden that they do not have the power or ability to rise above their situation, can guarantee a greater chance that they will not.
In the case of the 21 year old domestic violence offender, the inner voice that haunts him is the voice of his mother pushing the acts of his father onto him. She may not have known that this was being instilled in him… perhaps she was making the statement as a cautionary tale… but the words resonated within him and the results gave him a sense of powerlessness.
The way we talk to our children DOES become their inner voice and this voice can contribute to future behaviors. With intervention, those voices can be replaced. Much of the focused domestic violence work is on the survivors. Survivors of domestic violence obviously do need love, care, support, empowerment, education and healing. Offenders of domestic violence are in need of the same gifts from society, but these gifts are not given easily.
Words and comments shape who we become, how we see ourselves and what we believe is possible for ourselves to achieve. Where did your inner voice come from? Should you be listening to it?