Mel and I sat down for a coffee and a chat one day. I was talking about my work as a therapist and I said, ‘often, when clients come to see me, they don’t know they’ve been abused’.

Mel asked ‘how can they not know?’

This is a question that is asked a lot.

Abuse is spoken about in hushed tones, under the breath and with a bucket load of shame.

Many believe it was their fault.

They believe that life can be no different from what they have experienced.

They believe it can never get any better. So often, they are in a state of terror.

Think about this, if you were in a state of terror, racked with shame and your self-worth is at rock bottom, would you be able to think rationally? I would say no, how about you?

Abuse often is a demonstration of power and control at its most corrupted and horrible best. It humiliates, it is a robber of dignity and erodes self-worth.

Victims are groomed, set up and taken advantage of. This is a crime of devastating effects which can take years to recover from.

When I think about it, a fire stirs up in my belly, giving me the drive and passion to do the work I do. It is the reason why I became a counsellor/psychotherapist, because of my deeply held belief that there is hope on the other side of abuse. The more that is understood about abuse and the conditions in which it thrives, the greater it can be recognised for what it is, a crime.

For this reason, I’m going to be writing about domestic/family violence specifically for the Sista Code as a series. I will be covering the defining features of verbal, emotional, sexual, physical and financial abuse. As well, I’m going to share how abuse affects people, and common myths about domestic/family violence.

To kick off this series, I going to start with ‘The Cycle of Violence’, the reasons why women stay and how you help.

THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE

Violence is not a once off event but rather a set pattern of behaviours that the abuser will use again and again. According to research by Dr Lenore Walker in 1979 which can be found on the NSW Police website, the pattern is as follows:

Build up – tension, arguments and harassment increase

Stand over – increased levels of control and threats to instil fear

Explosion – extreme use of violence, aggression and abuse used maliciously in order to exact extreme control

Remorse – abuser justifies and minimises their behaviour, shows guilt and may try to harm themselves

Pursuit – blames everything from alcohol or other substances, to other people, including the victim, promises it will never happen again, presents as a victim

Honeymoon – increased care and affection, romantic gestures, manipulative behaviour

Then cycle starts again….

WHY DOESN’T SHE LEAVE

Sometimes people will say, ‘if it was that bad she would leave’ or ‘she must be provoking it’. The NSW Police believe the reasons include:

  • Fear of not believed
  • Fear of the abuser minimising it to police and others after an incident
  • Fear of the abuse increasing
  • Fear loved ones would be harmed if abuse is disclosed
  • Fear of no home or financial security
  • Fear of being alone and isolated
  • Fear of shaming the family
  • Believing the abusers promises ‘it won’t happen again’
  • Belief that the abuse isn’t that bad, minimising what’s happening to them

WHAT TO DO?

If your relative or friend has told you they are victim, here’s what to do:

Listen to her and believe her sharing takes an enormous amount of courage.

Give her the space to make her own mind up if she goes back, tell her you are very concerned about her but respect her decision.

Direct her to local Domestic Violence Services in Newcastle contact Hunter Women’s Centre 4968 2511 or Domestic Violence Newcastle 4927 8529

Make a safety plan provide emergency numbers she can call on to escape, have a suitcase packed in a safe place for her and her children, have copies of important documents such as drives licence, birth certificates, bank statements and school records. Encourage her to record what is happening to her. Record what you witness and the things you’re being told. It is when she leaves that things become the most dangerous for her.

Find a safe place for her to stay Domestic Violence Services can help you with this.

Call 000 if you witness violence the abuser being caught in the act has a way of reducing the level of violence experienced in the moment. So do call attention to it.

If you are experiencing violence, you don’t have to put up with it. There are options for you. If you know someone who is a victim don’t judge her, support her. She needs you.

With love,

Rita xx