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/.

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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.

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Leigh

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

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Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare

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