Day Nine

We have a collective responsibility not to minimise the impact of Domestic Abuse By Ruth Pooley (Voices Psychotherapist)

Working therapeutically with people who have experienced domestic violence takes time and courage from the client. It needs to be joint work; the impact of abuse and domestic violence goes deeper than the brutality, it is a dehumanising, belittling, disorienting experience. As the therapist, it is important to give respect and control to the survivor in manageable steps.

Our society is filled with visual images to get messages across quickly, this has led to domestic abuse being summarised by the image of someone with a black eye near a shadowy man with a balled fist. Although effective, this means we don’t usually take the time to imagine the pain, let alone what it took to create a situation where the person feels the only option is to keep going back to the abuser. The control, financial dependency and care for children, the humiliation, degradation and perhaps an imposed belief that one truly isn’t worth more.

So recovery is slow, as the survivor begins to unravel the false beliefs they have been fed. To ‘re-cover’ shame, guilt, confidence, status, humanity and humour then round again, until the unbearable becomes bearable. And then more work, to grow further into independence. Facing shattered dreams to find the faith to recreate hope. All this is usually alongside the practical difficulties created by trying to move away, getting through the courts and finding somewhere to live and a route to financial independence.

Surviving domestic abuse and domestic violence is a human right, and our collective responsibility is to not minimise the impact of what happened. The therapeutic work is to share the time, courage and offer a warm, safe relationship while victims become survivors.