* Trigger warning * Call Lifeline 13 11 14 or 1800 RESPECT immediately if you need help.
Recently there has been a lot of publicity about domestic violence statistics to raise public awareness – whether or not we have been affected by it, or known someone who has – this is shocking to many of us. The pain of domestic violence is carried for decades, by victims and their family members, who suffer feelings of social isolation and worthlessness that linger for the rest of their lives.
What can be done to help those who have an immediate need for safety in their own homes? What can be done for those whose memories regurgitate their past trauma and inflict emotional and physical grief and pain that seems to control their lives and wellbeing?
The many forms of violence and abuse:
- Silent treatment
- Public Shaming
- Gossip and slander
- Physical violence (to the body or destruction of property)
- Passive aggressive behaviour
- Sexual abuse or any unwanted intimacy
- Manipulating friends or family members to ‘take sides’ in arguments causing further social isolation
- Controlling behaviour – finances, social life, domestic duties.
- Interrogation and verbal harassment
Friends, neighbours, family members and care providers have an important role to play. It is important to work together to prevent further hurt, self-blame and shame that victims may suffer for the rest of their lives, the path to healing includes genuine friendship and care. Sometimes this care also requires tough love if the victim is unable to take those first few steps toward seeking professional help.
If a friend is considering taking their life because of domestic violence or abuse, intervening on their behalf may require being physically present with them during difficult times if and when possible and then making arrangements for them to talk to a helpline or counselling professional. This kind of intervention is the realm of the friend or family member who is keenly aware of the circumstances – ignoring the signs or ‘passing the buck’ is the worst thing anyone can do.
Doing nothing is not an option.
The most important message to convey to a victim of abuse or domestic violence is that their story matters and their life has a purpose. They should never be made to feel excluded any more than they already are. They should be encouraged to participate in life to the full, to seek the help they need to be safe – once they do so they can begin to take small steps towards fulfilling their life goals. Focusing on the future helps motivate them to develop a positive self-image and builds resilience. Achieving life goals or being able to help others is the antidote for feelings of helplessness and low self-worth that are caused by abuse. If they are made to feel like their ‘damage’ will hinder them for the rest of their lives, their depression and anxiety may spiral and they will forever fall victim to the consequences of their abuse.
Hope is the most wonderful gift any friend or family member can give. Whether it is small mercies or blessings, or major plans and achievements – there is a road to recovery that is best travelled one small step at a time alongside trusted friends.