Today I was immersed in the unpleasant horror of domestic violence. This is part of my job. But today it wasn’t the actual acts of violence or control that I was supporting someone through. Today I was witnessing the long-term and, I guess, bigger picture of domestic abuse. I was experiencing the system allow a victim to possibly loose everything and continue on the path of suffering.
The system is allowing this to happen whilst also acting shocked and judgemental that said victim isn’t making good choices, even at the risk of loosing their family. And yet, as professionals, we should know how this person will perceive themselves and how such feelings (guilt, fear, unworthy) will influence their choices.
I feel furious rage and utter despair that no real thought and help is put in place to change this individuals chances and instead a family is possibly destroyed.
Much of my role is focused on protecting children and this can mean that whilst I want to support the parents I must sometimes disagree/admonish/report them.
I know that having children live with domestic violence is not ok; that it affects their development and colours thier ideas of what healthy relationships look like.
But, when I am working with domestic violance situations I am often not questioning the parents ability to parent. It is the relationship in which they are bound that is the problem.
And the very nature of domestic abuse means someone is made to feel so powerless and worthless that they cannot ‘think’ themselves out, not even sometimes for the sake of the children. The internal voice will continue to tell someone that they cannot move on and have better and so they can not see choice or feel deserving of chances. If someone has been in an abusive relationship it is likely they will move on to another abusive relationship (not always). The fear created by the abuser is likely to be bigger and stronger than any offer/agreement/threat made by professionals or friends and family .
We cannot expect any different pattern if we are not stepping in with every resource necessary to protect, heal and support.
And so I feel the need to say:
If you know of someone living with domestic abuse then please , when it’s safe, let them know you are there. Do not judge them, do not tell them to get out, do not ask why they aren’t leaving. Continue to be present in their lives and offer calm and reliable friendship.
Please people, do not refrain from making domestic abuse a topic of conversation. More people than you will ever know are suffering. By not talking about it and by not educating that relationships should be equal and safe, we worsen the stigma and stop victims getting help. And we strengthen perpetrators beliefs that they do nothing wrong. It’s ok, when in a safe space, to ask someone more than ‘are you ok?’ but rather ‘is this person hurting you?’ Or ‘do you feel scared?’ They might not be ready to tell you an honest answer, they might well be fine but you are showing that you are there, open and able to face up to it and help.
If you have experienced domestic abuse or continue to do so then I’m sorry. Know that it’s not ok for someone to have power over you ever and that there is always somewhere to get support, should you want it. You are amazing and you should know it.
I write this as my own personal opinion and experience. I do not wish to pass judgement or add fuel to any individuals feelings. I hope to not cause offence by talking about an incredibly sensitive subject.
Some information on support:
The Freedom Programme
Bristol specific – Nextlink