Rebuilding Lives: The Power of Education and Community Support in Overcoming Domestic ViolenceJul 03, 2023
Leaving a domestic violence relationship takes immense courage and strength. It marks the beginning of a journey toward healing, empowerment, and reclaiming one's life.
An approximated "20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner" in the United States. For some, it will be the first instance; for others, the continuation of a cycle that has gone on for weeks, months, or years. It is a shocking, uncomfortable, and upsetting reality, but one that we must address as a united society to aid victims in escape and recovery.
While the path to recovery may seem daunting, two crucial pillars play a vital role in this process: education and community. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of education and community support in helping survivors of domestic violence rebuild their lives and pave the way for a brighter future.
Why Women Don't Leave
Women who suffer domestic violence are faced with an impossible situation. Time and time again, people ask, "why not just leave?" when the ugly, abusive reality behind a seemingly happy relationship is exposed. Unfortunately, it is never as simple as that, especially for the victims.
They fear a continuation of the violence.
Domestic abusers are obsessed with controlling their victims and keeping them trapped in their situations. They use the threat of further violence to force their victims to stay. Despite knowing that staying will mean a continuation of physical, mental, and emotional abuse, the victims fear what their abusers will do to them should they try to get away.
The reactions of these abusers include stalking, harassment, threats of further physical and/or emotional abuse, acts of violence, and murder. To put it into perspective, "nearly three women are murdered every day in the U.S. by current or former romantic partners". Abusers rely on their victims, being too terrified to ever leave them.
They have been made dependent on their abusers.
There is a reason why abuse extends beyond just physical and emotional violence. Financial abuse is also a huge factor in why lots of victims hesitate to leave. There is a horrific trend of domestic abuse beginning or escalating when a woman has become pregnant or given up her job. A pregnant American woman is "more likely to be murdered while pregnant" than to die from complications surrounding giving birth.
As a result, she is trapped. A victim with no savings and/or no job will have a much harder time leaving, especially if they have children to think of. Abusers rely on controlling every aspect of their victim's life and presenting themselves as "their only option". They isolate their victims from their friends and families too, robbing them of meaningful connections and people to seek refuge with.
They are in denial.
Nobody wants to believe that the person they fell in love with could ever be capable of hurting them in any way, and many victims end up in denial as a result. Domestic abuse often runs through a cycle: the abuser lashes out either physically or emotionally, the victim is stunned by the sudden act of violence, the abuser profusely apologizes, and the victim accepts, believing that it was a one-time thing.
After going through this cycle repeatedly, victims are traumatized by both the violence and the sudden switch in personality when the abuser once again becomes the person that they fell in love with. They don't want to believe reality because it is so awful, and it alters their perception of their entire relationship.
They do not feel adequately supported by society.
Even now when we are much more open about supporting good causes and rallying publicly against acts of injustice, there is a sense of shame and embarrassment attached to domestic abuse. Victims do not feel adequately supported by wider society, so they may be more wary of confronting the hideous reality of intimate violence.
A lack of education is to blame. Resources are not as widely advertised as they should be, the public lack the knowledge of how to confront domestic violence relationships, and many people view such topics as "too heavy" to get into. When society fails to offer enough support, it lets victims down.
The Stages Of Leaving
Though it sounds like a single act, there are several stages to leaving a domestic violence relationship. Even after the victim has left, they are still going through the process of freeing themselves. For some, this can take months. For others, years.
Below is an overview of the stages of leaving:
1. The abuse begins
The victim is blindsided by an act of violence by their intimate partner and tries to forgive and forget, especially when the abuser apologizes and promises never to do it again.
2. The abuser exerts control
Abusers rely on their victims, being too scared of them to leave. As the abuser continues their violence and exerts control, they take away their victim's happiness, faith in themselves, independence, important relationships, confidence, and sense of self.
3. The victim realizes their situation
It's incredibly difficult to admit that you are being abused. Victims deny it to both themselves and other people to convince themselves that it isn't happening, but one of the most upsetting yet empowering moments is acknowledging it, despite gaslighting and threats from the abuser.
4. The victim contemplates leaving
Acknowledging the abuse is the first step towards physically separating yourself. The second is making the decision to leave. Often, this decision is hampered by insecurities and paranoia, particularly if the victim has children, has no job, is being financially controlled, and has few personal relationships.
5. The victim plans
Sometimes it can take years before the victim starts to plan their escape, but when they do, they begin to make a plan to get away safely. This involves seeking help from loved ones, looking into financial support, taking control of their personal lives, and getting help from other resources, such as helplines and shelters.
6. The victim gets away
Having a concrete plan in place is essential to fleeing a domestic violence relationship. Once the victim has left the relationship, they can begin healing, though this road is a long one and requires plenty of support and protection.
7. The victim becomes a survivor
Going through domestic abuse will forever change a person, but that doesn't mean that your entire future is destroyed. Leaving an abusive situation takes an immense amount of courage. It makes you a survivor. And once you are safe, you can begin healing yourself and taking back control.
Empowering Through Education
Education serves as a powerful tool for survivors to regain their independence, rebuild their self-esteem, and acquire the necessary skills to pursue their goals. As a society, we are responsible for ensuring that this education is as widespread as possible. Not only will it help save the lives of victims, but it will also emphasize the need for a community response to the horrors of domestic abuse.
Here's how education plays a crucial role in rebuilding lives:
Education provides survivors with a sense of accomplishment and helps rebuild their self-confidence. By acquiring new knowledge, skills, and qualifications, survivors gain a renewed belief in their abilities and their potential to create a better life for themselves and their children. Abusers try to take away their victims' independence, emotional sanity, and sense of identity. Healing means rebuilding your broken confidence and taking it all back.
Education opens doors to a range of opportunities, both personally and professionally. Survivors can pursue further education, vocational training, or gain new skills that enhance their employability. It equips them with the tools they need to secure stable employment and financial independence. Abusers try to limit their victims' worldviews and give them no other option but to stay. Survivors can direct their own lives and continue to grow.
Breaking the Cycle
Education is a catalyst for breaking the cycle of abuse. By educating themselves and their children about healthy relationships, survivors empower future generations to recognize and reject violence, fostering a positive and safe environment. Abuse is never the victim's fault, but the healing aftermath provides essential information about how insidious domestic violence is.
The Power of Community Support
Community support is an invaluable resource for survivors, providing a network of understanding, compassion, and guidance. Abuse is deliberately isolating and intended to deconstruct a person's identity piece by piece. Nobody should have to put themselves back together alone. As the Women's Resource Information and Support Centre puts it: "you don't have to be an expert. You just have to have the desire to make a difference".
Here's how community support helps survivors on their journeys:
Validation and Empathy
Joining a supportive community helps survivors realize they are not alone. Connecting with other survivors or advocates allows them to share their experiences, express their emotions, and receive validation and empathy. This validation is crucial in helping survivors heal from the trauma they have endured. Where abusers try to break their victims, communities must show them that they are not alone anymore.
Community organizations, shelters, and support groups offer practical assistance to survivors, including housing options, legal advice, and access to healthcare. These resources help survivors navigate the challenges they may face while leaving an abusive relationship. Survivors often lose a lot (particularly financially) when they decide to leave, so a community ready to provide practical assistance makes leaving a more realistic scenario for them.
Community support offers survivors a safe space to heal emotionally. Through counseling, therapy, or support groups, survivors can work through their trauma, develop coping mechanisms, and regain their emotional well-being. Peer support plays a significant role in reminding survivors of their resilience, giving them the space to heal in peace, and inspiring hope for the future.
Leaving a domestic violence relationship marks the beginning of a journey toward healing, growth, and empowerment.
Education and community support are instrumental in helping survivors rebuild their lives after such traumatic experiences. By providing education and knowledge, survivors gain the confidence and skills needed to create a better future. Community support offers validation, empathy, and practical assistance, creating a network that fosters healing and emotional well-being.
Together, education and community support serve as pillars of strength, enabling survivors to reclaim their lives, break the cycle of abuse, and inspire others to follow in their footsteps toward a life free from violence.
Domestic abuse is an unrelenting reality that destroys millions of lives. We can all be part of the solution and help survivors rebuild their lives in the safety and comfort of a supportive, knowledgeable, empathetic society.
Ways to get help...
Domestic Violence Support | National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org) is a vital resource for individuals seeking help and support in situations of domestic violence. The hotline provides a lifeline to survivors, offering a safe, confidential, and anonymous space to talk about their experiences and receive immediate assistance. Trained advocates are available 24/7 to offer support, guidance, and resources to those affected by domestic abuse.
Whether someone is contemplating leaving an abusive relationship, in need of safety planning, or seeking information about legal options, the Domestic Abuse Hotline is there to provide compassionate and nonjudgmental assistance. They can also help connect individuals to local resources, including shelters, counseling services, and legal aid.
It's important for anyone facing domestic violence or concerned about someone they know to reach out to the Domestic Abuse Hotline for help and support. Remember, you are not alone, and help is just a phone call or online chat away.
Free services are available:
Domestic violence agencies offer transformative support services for individuals who have experienced domestic violence or know someone who has. These agencies provide crucial assistance to those who have left or are trying to leave abusive relationships. The following are sixteen services commonly provided by domestic violence agencies:
- 24/7 Hotline Support: Domestic violence agencies operate hotlines that are available 24/7, providing free advice and support. They may also offer online chat and text options to ensure accessibility and confidentiality.
- Safety Planning: Domestic violence agencies have experts who can develop personalized safety plans, including strategies for enhancing security measures, changing routines, and managing co-parenting situations.
- Court and Legal Advocacy: These agencies offer free court and legal advocacy, assisting with restraining orders, and no-contact orders, and providing in-court support during criminal cases. They can also connect individuals with free or low-cost legal services.
- Individual Counseling: Domestic violence agencies provide free counseling services by professionals experienced in domestic violence and sexual assault crisis intervention. These counselors help survivors begin the healing process and connect them with additional resources.
- Group Counseling: Group counseling programs offered by domestic violence agencies create a safe space for survivors to connect, process their experiences, and learn how to prevent future harm.
- Support Groups: Support groups facilitated by domestic violence agencies offer a safe environment for individuals to share their experiences, find solidarity, and receive mutual support.
- Emergency Shelter: Domestic violence agencies operate emergency shelters that provide a safe haven for individuals and families leaving abusive relationships. These shelters offer supportive environments tailored to the needs of survivors.
- Transitional Housing: Many domestic violence agencies provide transitional housing as a bridge between emergency shelters and long-term affordable housing. These programs often have requirements such as financial savings plans to promote self-sufficiency.
- Housing & Rent Funding Resources: Domestic violence agencies may offer funding resources to assist with housing-related expenses, such as deposits and utility costs. They also establish partnerships with organizations that can provide furniture and other essentials.
- Referrals to Community Resources: Advocates and counselors at domestic violence agencies are knowledgeable about local community resources and can provide referrals to organizations that address specific needs, such as job training programs or career search assistance.
- Child Therapy and Counseling: Domestic violence agencies offer specialized counseling and intervention support for children and teens who have witnessed domestic violence or experienced abuse themselves. They collaborate with other organizations if necessary.
- Sexual Assault Support: Many domestic violence agencies also provide support services for survivors of sexual assault. They can guide individuals to the appropriate resources and organizations specializing in sexual violence.
- Medical Advocacy: Domestic violence agencies offer medical advocates who can accompany survivors to the hospital or medical appointments following physical assault or sexual violence, providing support during these critical moments.
- Basic Needs Provision: Domestic violence agencies often provide gift cards and resources for survivors to meet their basic needs, including food, clothing, and household items. They strive to empower survivors to regain control over their lives.
- Art Therapy and Creative Healing Modalities: Some domestic violence agencies collaborate with art therapy professionals to offer healing through creative expressions, such as painting, journaling, and other artistic outlets.
- Prevention and Outreach: Domestic violence agencies work to prevent violence and raise awareness through educational programs, training, outreach campaigns, and community collaborations. They actively engage in initiatives for change and policy dialogues.
It is essential to be aware of the services provided by domestic violence agencies. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, reach out to your local domestic violence agency for help. You can easily find them by searching online for your city or town's name along with "domestic violence agency."
xoxo, Megan & the team
- The Domestic Abuse Hotline | www.thehotline.org
- Women's Resource Information and Support Centre | Learn More
- Homicide is Top Cause of Death During Pregnancy | Learn More
- Domestic Violence: Nearly Killed Women Every Day by Intimate Partners | Learn More
- National Statistics for Domestic Violence | Learn More
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