Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about domestic or intimate partner violence and the resulting trauma courtesy of Johnny Depp Amber Heard case. One-time exposure to any kind of abuse or violence can have a huge impact on our physical and mental health. So when such abuse occurs in a home environment, and in an ongoing manner, its effects are bound to be much more serious. Remember, it’s not about anger, it’s about the power and control between two people in a relationship.
Every abusive relationship involves an unequal power dynamic, which results in the victim feeling helpless. Low moods, anxiety, self-doubt, and reduced sense of self-worth are usually experienced. This is why many affected do not report abuse; They are afraid of the blow. Sometimes they fall prey to their abusers who can win them back with momentary repentance and then resume the aggressor’s cycle.
Survivors must rebuild self-esteem and develop self-love for that first step.
1) Identifying the abusive pattern is the first step – Domestic violence may not always involve physical abuse. It may include other ways to harm, control, or intimidate the individual. In addition, it often starts out insidiously, so that the victims involved are not always able to recognize such a pattern of relationships. Recognizing the cycle of abuse itself is the first step.
2) Reconnecting – It is not uncommon for a victim of domestic violence to be isolated from friends and family. Rebuilding trust after these experiences can be a challenge for many. Work to reconnect with your loved ones. A strong social support system is key to recovery.
3) Regain Control – While facing low self-worth, take small steps to regain a sense of agency. To regain a sense of control, start making decisions in your daily life. Discover your sense of purpose and make efforts to work toward your goals. It may also be helpful to take steps to help you feel stronger, more independent, and in greater control.
4) Seek help – Repeated exposure to abuse or violence can lead individuals to experience complex PTSD. Patients may feel as though they are reliving the same experiences over and over again, via nightmares or memories of violent events, or feel constantly wary or easily startled. Such conditions affect every aspect of an individual’s life – including their thoughts, moods, sleep, health, daily activities, work, and relationships. In addition, victims may experience overwhelming feelings of shame and difficulties in controlling their emotions. When dealing with the effects of an abusive relationship, remember that help is available. Reach out to a mental health professional to guide you through the recovery process.
Many people, women and children in particular, still experience violence within the confines of their homes. We, as a society, need to come together to take steps that can support individuals still living in such circumstances. As we talk about dealing with the effects of domestic violence, providing access to crisis helplines, creating awareness about the signs of abuse, training professionals working in this area and creating appropriate support structures that can support victims is our collective responsibility. Above all, we have to be non-judgmental.