Domestic violence: How to rebuild your life.
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour in any relationship in the home, where power is used to control the other person. Most commonly, domestic violence is spousal abuse or the abuse of a child by a parent.
The abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological and is used to frighten, intimidate, manipulate, hurt or blame someone.
Domestic violence is not limited to race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to anyone.
The impact of domestic violence
The impact of domestic violence is vast.
People who have been abused experience:
- emotional instability
- inability to trust again
- depression and anxiety (and many other mental challenges)
- physical injury (both temporary and permanent)
- Brain damage
It can take a long time for survivors to begin feeling that they can take back their own power and control their own life.
How to recover from domestic violence
The process of empowerment begins with taking control of minor everyday things as a way of counteracting the intimidation and control many have experienced in abusive relationships.
A change in one’s mental state is a good starting point, too – believing that you are not a victim anymore and will not be a victim again. Being isolated, put down, controlled and physically abused by someone that you love carry traumatic consequences that remain with the survivor for years.
Learn to trust yourself again
According to Goodhousekeeping, emotional abuse has a more devastating, long-lasting effect than hitting or pushing. Physical injuries leave marks that validate your experience to the outside world, which lets you know you’re not crazy, explains Mindy Mechanic, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University, Fullerton, whose study of 413 abused women found that emotional violence causes severe PTSD and depression above and beyond that caused by physical violence. Some women’s self-esteem becomes so severely eroded that they no longer trust themselves to be able to function outside the abusive relationship.
Start with making small, autonomous decisions. Decide on what you will eat, or what you will wear and then don’t ask anyone’s opinion on it. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but make a habit of listening to your intuition and not needing validation.
Be kind to yourself after domestic violence
Ending an abusive relationship is an achievement. Applaud yourself for taking charge. Yes, it is also a scary, bold move, and it will take time to fully adjust to your new, safe life, but every day is a step closer to healing.
Getting out of the abusive relationship is an act of heroism, but this does not mean that the suffering will end automatically. In fact, life after domestic violence is a critical period for self-care. Survivors have to rebuild their identity, rediscover a sense of safety, and reconnect with trusty friends and family. Re-evaluating priorities, setting new boundaries and refocusing on one’s self is also part of the journey.
Emotional trauma is as serious as physical trauma. Speaking to a trained medical professional about the things you endured can help you heal. A psychologist can help you work through the events that happened, and a psychiatrist can prescribe medications to help you sleep or quell the anxiety you may have.
It is also a great way to ensure that you remain strong and level-headed and don’t fall back into an abusive relationship – which often has a repetitive pattern.
The long-lasting effects of domestic violence are not uncommon. A great percentage of people, who have survived an abusive relationship, whether for a few months or many years, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They are also prone to depression, auto-immune diseases, anxiety, hypervigilance, nightmares and substance abuse.
Regular counselling sessions, attending group meetings and building a support structure are all very important for domestic violence survivors to get back on track.
Take your time, and treat yourself gently. Do not try to rush the healing process and expect that your goals may take a bit longer to achieve. It is normal to want to make huge changes immediately and it is fine to not want to make any changes just yet as well. Having hopes and ambitions are encouraged, but goal planning should be realistic and at a pace that you are comfortable with and not pressured by others.
Reward yourself. Even if the reward is for making it through the day, treat yourself to something that makes you feel happy. Do something that you are good at. This is always helpful when wanting to regain your self-confidence.
Try to exercise regularly. For example, try swimming, dancing, walking or climbing. Learn a new skill, such as yoga, meditation or self-defence. This may also link well with being creative, whether it is trying to draw, paint or write.
Practise relaxation exercises. These can include breathing exercises, tai chi, self-hypnosis or massage. It is also important to get enough sleep, if possible and to eat well.
Learning to love again after being in an abusive relationship will be difficult, but necessary after being isolated from so many relationships by your abuser, you may not want to feel alone. Self-empathy also comes with feeling helpless, especially when trying to rebuild your foundation. This is also necessary because it allows you to connect with your feelings and what you have experienced so that you can feel like you are alive, energetic, fun and worth loving again.
Forgive yourself. You did not deserve what the abuser did to you. There will be guilt, shame and fear, but energy should be focused on self-forgiveness. It doesn’t matter why you stayed. Any form of abuse is wrong. What matters is that you survived.
Once a survivor has re-immersed herself in her uniqueness and identity, it will be easier to connect with others, especially to share with those who have been through the same struggle. Your self-worth will radiate and others who experienced the same domestic abuse will be able to see that the abuser did not make you the unique and special person you are and most definitely cannot take it away.
It is imperative to have a plan in place for when anything goes wrong; iER is that safety net. When you leave an abusive relationship, the reality is that there is always the fear that the person, who abused you could return and still pose a threat to you.
Everyone wants to feel safe and protected, and our solution is iER – an app that puts the help you need only one button away.
The app contains unique, built-in alerts and a GPS tracking functionality so that the emergency services can locate you with ease, ensuring a swift, hassle-free rescue.
In the event of an emergency, iER will notify your family and emergency contacts.
iER offers members three different plan options.