5 Things You Need To Know About Domestic Abuse

5 Things You Need to Know About Domestic Abuse

When it comes to understanding domestic violence, it can be surprisingly easy to fall prey to assumptions. We know that it occurs regularly, and most may even speculate that it happens more frequently than we might guess upon first thought.

We know that there’s almost always more to it than physical violence, and that escaping a domestic violence situation is far easier said and done. But for a lot of us who may not have experienced domestic abuse directly, that’s about as far as understanding goes.

Basic awareness is never a bad thing, of course. Where this issue is concerned, however, more is often required. A more thorough knowledge of domestic violence can lead you to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship and even to better understand the consequences that victims deal with every day, all around the world. So keeping that in mind, here are five things everyone should know about domestic abuse that some may not be aware of.

Domestic Abuse – What You Need to Know

  1. Abusers know what they’re doing.

    A few years ago Cosmopolitan wrote up a very interesting article about some of the most common misconceptions about domestic violence, and it’s well worth a thorough read. Perhaps the most interesting point therein was that we’ve sort of been conditioned to think of abusers as people who lose control or have fits of rage. That may be the case for individual instances of abuse but generally speaking, most abusers are in full control of their actions and are thus following patterns of behavior. This is important to understand because it indicates that abuse isn’t an aberration.

  2. Calling police is a first step.

    Another point made in the Cosmopolitan article was that many victims of abuse hesitate to call the police for various reasons. Some don’t want their partners arrested; some don’t believe the police can stop the violence; and some, particularly in LGBT relationships or in minority communities, even fear that the police will make things worse. These are legitimate concerns, and psychologically speaking they’re more than understandable. However, it’s important not to think of a call to the police as a potential solution, so much as a first step. As the article put it, police are simply the first responders. If they don’t help directly, they can put victims in touch with people and organizations that offer the proper support.

  3. Abuse can cause chronic illness.

    Too often, we fall into the habit of thinking of abuse as something that inflicts short-term physical harm and psychological consequences. But, as part of its effort to make an impact in healthcare, Verizon has pointed to a somewhat shocking problem related to domestic violence. Research indicates that it can actually cause chronic illness issues in victims. Examples include migraines, arthritis, and gastrointestinal disease, not to mention individual injuries that never fully heal. This is incredibly important to grasp as it speaks to the fact that people who suffer from domestic violence aren’t victims for a limited time. In many cases, the impacts can be permanent.

  4. Men can be affected too.

    It’s fair to say that domestic abuse is an issue that predominantly affects women. At the same time, however, it’s horribly misguided to hold men out of the conversation about victims altogether. Plenty of men experience relationship abuse (both physical and non-physical), not only from women but also from other men in gay relationships. All of the concerns in this article and in other conversations about this issue are applicable to men.

  5. Reading Help

    It may sound like a cliché, but staying informed about issues like this one can only help. Domestic-Violence-Law wrote up its own list of five things that it’s vital to know about domestic violence and included “the proliferation of knowledge, facts, information, support, and assistance” as a key point. That doesn’t mean that simply by reading this article you’ve prevented an incident of domestic violence or provided support for a victim. But this is certainly an issue that is best addressed through widespread understanding and awareness. The more you know about domestic violence, the better positioned you are to help when you do have an opportunity to do so.

Sadly, domestic abuse remains an incredibly common problem in society, and there are no sweeping solutions to be had. But as stated within the last point, education is a key part of the battle against abuse. The better we comprehend the ordeals of victims and the situations that lead to domestic violence, the more we can all do to help.


About the Author: Rachel Hodges

Rachel Hodges is a freelance writer and community organizer currently working on a project that aims to increase awareness about the widespread impact of domestic abuse. In her downtime, she enjoys reading, spending time friends and family, and training for her next 5K.

6 Comments

Pam

I feel there should be one more thing t o know about domestic violence. It doesn’t always mean you get battered physically. It’s also about mental abuse, which in a lot of ways can cause as much or even more long lasting scars. You can’t see them but they are there, and depending on how severe, they can affect you clear into your soul. It’s not easy to prove and I found out that although it is accepted as a form of abuse, there isn’t the protection aimed at it, as the physical. That’s why I thought that should belong here, it is time that it is recognize and treated nearly the same. It is hard to get help because you can’t prove the pain, if there are no bruises.

Reply
Victoria

Have studies been done on the long term effects of an abusive relationship, after the abuser is no longer in the picture?

Reply
Hey Sigmund

What we know is that toxic stress can have long-term effects on the brain and body. The brain is very resilient though, and always open to change so if you have been in a toxic environment, it is vital that you do things that will take care of your brain. Things like exercise, meditation or mindfulness, social connection, sleep, and the right foods are all great for the brain and will help it to heal from toxic stress. Here is some information here https://www.heysigmund.com/toxic-stress/.

Reply
Harley

The longitudinal Dunedin study in New Zealand showed that men and women abuse each other in equal numbers. While it’s “fair to say the domestic abuse is an issue that predominately affects women”, what was surprising to me was that this was because of hospitalisation rates not abuse rates.

Reply
Leigh

The reason being is that in most cases, men physically abusing women inflicts more serious physical injuries than when women physically abuse men.

Reply

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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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