Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Domestic Abuse Misconception #9

Domestic Abuse Misconception #9: A victim should just keep these matters to herself. A wife, especially, should not disclose abuse because doing so is dishonoring to her husband. 

This is an idea that is more likely to be found in church circles, which often confuse disclosure with gossip,  and perhaps more "polite" society where "we just don't talk about those things." 

The truth is that abuse, any kind of abuse, thrives on secrecy. The first step out of abuse is disclosing that it is happening. It is not dishonoring to disclose abuse. It is about the only way to make it stop. And it is the only path toward healing. 

Secrets are rarely a good thing. They aren't healthy. They isolate. They wear a soul down with shame. The Bible continually calls us to expose evil. Ignoring evil or covering it up only leads to more destruction. 

It is important to tell someone if you are being abused, controlled, manipulated. Now, the challenge is that telling someone who doesn't get it and is dead set on fixing you or setting you straight or telling you what they think you need to do can be incredibly damaging to your trust. Call your local domestic abuse hotline (in the Asheville area it is Helpmate at 828-254-0516) or The National Domestic Abuse Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE). Share with a trusted friend. Shoot, share with me if you don't know who to tell. I can help you find safe people to talk to. 

And for those of you who are receive the honor of being entrusted with such difficult information, here is information from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre in Australia (abuse is a global problem): 

  • Listen to what she has to say.
  • Believe what she tells you. It will have taken a lot for her to talk to you. People are much more likely to cover up or downplay the abuse, rather than to make it up or exaggerate. You might find it hard to imagine someone you know could behave abusively. But the person who is abusive will probably show you a very different side to the side the victim sees.
  • Take the abuse seriously. Abuse can be damaging both physically and emotionally. Don’t underestimate the danger she may be in.
  • Help her to recognise the abuse and understand how it may be affecting her or her children.
  • Tell her you think she has been brave in being able to talk about the abuse, and in being able to keep going despite the abuse.
  • Help to build her confidence in herself.
  • Help her to understand that the abuse is not her fault and that no-one deserves to be abused, no matter what they do. Let her know you think that the way her partner is treating her is wrong. For example, ‘No-one, not even your husband, has the right to mistreat you’
  • Help her to protect herself. You could say ‘I’m afraid of what he could do to you or the children‘ or ‘I’m worried that it will get worse’ . Talk to her about how she thinks she could protect herself. See the section ‘Helping to increase her safety’ (see below).
  • Help her to think about what she can do and see how you can help her to achieve it.
  • Offer practical assistance like minding the children for a while, cooking a meal for her, offering a safe place to stay, transport or to accompany her to court, etc.
  • Respect her right to make her own decisions, even if you don’t agree with them. Respect her cultural or religious values and beliefs.
  • Maintain some level of regular contact with her. Having an opportunity to talk regularly to a supportive friend or relative can be very important.
  • Find out about Intervention Orders (Victorian name for a court protection order – in NSW these are called ‘Apprehended Violence Orders’, and in other states they are ‘Protection’, ‘Restraining’ or ‘Domestic Violence’ Orders) and other legal options available and pass this information on to her if she wants it.
  • Tell her about the services available. Remind her that if she calls a service, she can just get support and information, they won’t pressure her to leave if she doesn’t want to.
  • Keep supporting her after she has left the relationship. The period of separation could be a dangerous time for her, as the abuse may increase. She may need practical support and encouragement to help her establish a new life and recover from the abuse. She could also seek counselling or join a support group.
(Note: In all of my posts I use "he" for abuser and "she" for victim for simplicity and because, in the majority of cases, the abuser is male. But it can be the opposite with a female abuser. Dynamics of abuse can also happen in same sex relationships.)

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